When I was eight years old, at school I guess, I made a painting of some yellow flowers in an orange vase. I would have been in third grade, so I guess we were still living in the house on Bartlett Avenue in the near-in Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay. It was the next year that we moved to Oconomowoc. My parents apparently liked the painting, or at least, being good parents, wanted to give me the impression that they were impressed and proud, because they displayed it at home.

But at some point, for some reason that probably had nothing to do with the painting itself, I got mad at my dad and, to show him just how mad I was, ripped it up. Then I probably tossed the pieces on the floor and stomped off to my room.

My dad lovingly glued the pieces of my work of art back together and put it back on the fridge, and life went on. And many years and peregrinations later, about a decade ago – I know it was after I moved to Seattle in 2006, because until then my living situation was never stable enough for me to be able to make good use of such a gift – he gave it back to me. Visiting my folks in Colorado Springs, I happened to see it, nicely framed, leaning against a wall or a piece of furniture. Yeah, my dad told me, I had that framed for you. It now hangs on the wall of my kitchen, captioned, in pretty good cursive for an eight-year-old:

Ethan Casey

Nov. 1973

To: Mom & Dad


Bob Dylan’s lesser-known album Oh Mercy is a pretty good one, and I remember well the year it came out – 1989 – because I associate it with happy memories of living in Berkeley and riding the AC Transit bus daily to an office job in downtown San Francisco. It includes a song called “Everything Is Broken”:

Broken cutters, broken saws,
Broken buckles, broken laws,
Broken bodies, broken bones,
Broken voices on broken phones.
Take a deep breath, feel like you’re chokin’
Everything is broken.

On October 17, 1989 I had just ridden the bus home, loosened my tie, sat down on the futon in my rented room, and stood up to cross the room and turn on the pregame show before Game 3 of the World Series between the A’s and the Giants, when my world was rocked by an earthquake.

I hadn’t been living in California long enough to know whether it was a big one. It turned out it was. One of my housemates and I went up on the roof to throw loose bricks from the broken chimney down onto the grass, so they wouldn’t fall on anyone. From the roof I could see to the north, toward El Cerrito, a huge plume of black smoke dramatically billowing up into the sky; later we learned it was from a tire store that had caught fire. Another thing that turned out to have been broken by the quake was the Bay Bridge itself, the very bridge I had just ridden across.


This morning my day started badly when, first, one of our energetic young cats jumped on a dresser in the bedroom and broke the plastic frame of a small mirror that Jenny uses (and woke Jenny up). And then I noticed that the water I spilled on the coffee table last night had in fact – after I wiped up what I thought was all of it – seeped under the jigsaw puzzle Jenny had just completed and made a couple dozen pieces in the upper right corner soggy.

I saw that, last night after I went to bed, Jenny had noticed it first and had put paper towels on and under the puzzle to soak up the water. But seeing that several pieces were now soggily coming apart left me on the verge of tears. Which is pathetic, although these days pretty much normal. In the early afternoon I walked to Fred Meyer to buy Elmer’s Glue so I can reattach the broken pieces after they dry out. While there I also snagged the only 24-pack of Quilted Northern toilet paper in stock, for the stash I’m amassing in the backyard shed, because anymore you never know.

The last couple weeks I’ve been making an effort to Super-Glue some household items and knickknacks that have been sitting in a shoebox for varying lengths of time up to several years. Unlike the three books in varying stages of completion that I should be working on, or the futile project of trying to fix all of America, these broken things will at least, once they’re fixed, be tangible and visible evidence that not everything broken has to stay that way, even if you can still see the cracks and seams. So far I’ve fixed the bowl Jenny likes that’s decorated with dragonflies, the little blue glass pitcher, the sleepy mouse Christmas tree ornament, the Friday Harbor fridge magnet in the shape of a ferry, and the wooden handle of a cool knife I bought in Peshawar in 1999.

I haven’t yet glued the two plant pots recently broken by one of our cats, or the green and yellow glass butterfly, or my Kyle Seager bobblehead (also broken by a cat, although not her fault because I had inadvertently locked her in my office). Don’t get me started on how Seager is overrated and overpaid, but he is a gamer, and his bobblehead has its place in a tableau in my home office where he’s playing third base, Kenji Johjima is catching, Satchel Paige (from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City) is pitching to Ichiro, and Raul Ibanez is in the outfield.


Another thing that’s broken is the American social contract, but that’s beyond my capacity to repair. Monday morning, after two shooting incidents in the CHAZ or CHOP – Seattle’s “autonomous zone” – that left one dead and two wounded, I realized there’s no point in waiting to write about it until the zone’s status is resolved. What does “resolved” look like, anyway?

Mayor Jenny Durkan – who, more and more, looks like she’s just winging it – called a press conference on Sunday and is saying that, “peacefully and in the near future,” the Seattle Police Department will reoccupy the East Precinct and the CHAZ or CHOP will somehow be wound down in a “phased” way. “It’s time for people to go home, it is time for us to restore Cal Anderson [Park] and Capitol Hill so it can be a vibrant part of the community,” she said. We’ll see how that goes. On Monday, Capitol Hill resident and podcaster Jason Rigden tweeted: “Why does Durkan still have a job?”


From the Seattle Times, June 23:

CHOP is fundamentally a protest about Black lives that had drawn a mixed (though largely white) crowd with a jumbled menu of agendas.


There were rubberneckers, there for the novelty and Instagram-friendly photos – and some argue the media coverage, which even got President Trump’s attention, was an extension of that rubbernecking. …


Other CHOP visitors came preaching their own political gospels: anti-capitalism, tenants’ rights, taxing Amazon. One young Black man (who did not want to be identified) at the [ad hoc Decolonization Conversation] Café insisted people stop treating CHOP like a blank canvas: “Don’t come in here and use dead Black bodies as your political springboard.”


All the toppling of statues lately leaves me feeling that the United States is in a genuinely revolutionary situation. We’ll have to wait and see how it all turns out in due course, just as we still don’t know the final outcomes of the French and Haitian revolutions.

An idea that’s occurred to me is to make a walking tour of statues around Seattle, from the controversial statue of Lenin – who infamously claimed you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs – in Fremont, via Chief Seattle off Denny Way near the Space Needle and Jimi Hendrix on Capitol Hill, to the Ken Griffey Jr. statue outside the home plate entrance of the baseball stadium in Sodo. I don’t suppose such a trek would be very useful to anyone, but to me and my friends it would at least be interesting and enjoyable.


From the Seattle Times, August 17, 2017:

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has called for both the monument to Confederate soldiers at Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery and a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Fremont to be taken down, saying they represent “historic injustices” and are symbols of hate, racism and violence.


Murray’s statement, released Thursday, is much stronger than his previous response, where he expressed concerns about the Confederate monument to the operator of the cemetery. Lake View Cemetery closed Wednesday after receiving threats related to the monument.


On Thursday, Lake View Cemetery said it would remain closed until Monday morning, “due to the controversy over Confederate memorials.”


The monument, erected in 1926 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Lenin statue are both on private property. Still, Murray said, he believes they should be removed.