Jan 25, 2015

Big dreams: the Smith Tower and a little white wooden church

There are little dreams and there are big dreams. And the big dreams can be of different sizes too. The other week the Smith Tower in Seattle changed ownership. Three years ago the little white wooden church in my village was for sale.  Oh, what couldn’t I have done if they were mine!

The iconic Smith Tower turned a hundred years in July 2014. The neo classical architecture white ornamented granite and terra cotta building in Pioneer Square was at the point when it was built the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, and the first sky scraper in Seattle. It’s hard to imagine now, today you would probably think of Smith Tower as cute. 

But the characteristic 42-story building with a lower wider base and the tower with a pyramid top is a beautiful piece of art, a landmark, providing the southern bookend to Seattle’s skyscrapers. The building is crowned by an 8-foot-wide (2.4 m) glass dome illuminated by blue light, except during December when it is changed to green. And there is actually a family living in the pyramid, which contains a three story penthouse, how cool is that!

Now, a more down to earth building, so to speak, is the little white wooden church in my village. As I have told many times before it was built by my grandfather, his brother and brother in law, inaugurated in 1930. The church was the center for village gatherings for about 20 years, but the more secular the Swedes became, the less frequented was the church. For the last 15 years, pretty much the only thing happening in the church was the early Christmas morning service, and about four years ago the building was for sale.

I love this little church. For the story, for my roots, for my mother, uncle, aunt, grandmother, grandfather, for the village, and for the room with it’s tall windows which brings the light, and the wooden walls, floor and ceilings which provides the acoustics. I used to go there by myself in summer evenings to sing. To let my voice be carried in the empty room, safe that no one would here me. This was my private concert hall. Oh, if I could have kept it!

I am blessed with two artistic sons, a like wise nephew and his even more musical wife. Lisa is an organist, an extremely talented woman, and Johannes is a sound engineer specialized in classical music recordings. At the point when the church was for sale none of us had the means to buy it. Rephrasing, it wasn’t a lot of money, but the needs for renovation are extensive and it wasn’t for us to take on. But oh, our dreams of what we could have done with that building!

The church room itself would have been a perfect concert hall, just as it was. A small cozy venue out in the countryside, still only 20 minutes from Umeå. Great acoustics was already there. Lisa dreamt about installing a church organ of course. There is a raw attic above the kitchen and the smaller room, probably originally meant for the traveling pastors, but never finished. It’s quite a large space, perfect for office and a sound studio for Johannes. Ah, we would have turned the sleeping beauty into a vibrant cultural setting for concerts, arts and recording, bringing our grandparents and great great parents dreams into the 21st century! 

So, what would I do with the Smith Tower, in 1914 the fourth-tallest building in the world and, for nearly 50 years, the West Coast’s tallest? A building containing mostly office space, and in 2012 sold at a foreclosure auction for merely nothing, $ 35, 795 million, since it by then had a vacancy by 86,5%.  That’s when I had my chance, a pretty much empty historic building! It’s been picking up since then and was last week purchased for $ 73,73 million. Shoot!

Well, to start with I would move in to the pyramid penthouse, no doubt about i! I have always desired a Seattle downtown penthouse, and this would be the ultimate one for sure!

Then, since this is thee big dream among the big ones, it is so completely unreal (yeah, I don’t have hubris and I am well aware of the fact that I am spending my life on a couch in my village home, I mean it’s not even a dream, it’s just silly) haven’t really dived too deep in to my desires. I mean, it’s pretty easy to stand in front of the little white wooden church in my village and start drawing even the fine lines. Looking up the Smith Tower I would say is a bit overwhelming.

But. Except for living in the penthouse, I think I would turn it into a creative hubbub. I would make it thee creative hubbub of Seattle. Make it thee place and melting pot for all kinds of artists. Writers, photographers, painters, illustrators, actors, film people, musicians, designers, you name it. There would be studios, labs, dark rooms (yes, old fashioned dark rooms!), rehearsal locations, any kind of professional space that anyone in the creative zone would need. And yes, KCTS (the Seattle public service TV station would move in there and I would provide them the resources they would need to produce and broadcast quality local news every day(Swedes, you won’t understand this)!

And this would be perfect even on a personal level, since most of my Seattle friends would be working in the building!

There Maria, now you are done dreaming. The little white wooden church is well taken care of by another village woman. And there is always the Observation Deck and the Chinese Room in the Smith Tower to enjoy, as a citizen or a tourist. As well as the elevators, the only ones in Seattle operated not only by a voice, but by real people. And that’s nice. That’s very nice.


Jan 18, 2015

This is the case. My case/part 5

I am not sure what the right word is. Translation programs tells me “querulant” And this is what Wikipedia tells me about the querulant:
A querulant (from the Latin querulus - "complaining") is a person who obsessively feels wronged, particularly about minor causes of action. In particular the term is used for those who repeatedly petition authorities or pursue legal actions based on manifestly unfounded grounds. These applications include in particular complaints about petty offenses.
Querulant behavior is to be distinguished from either the obsessive pursuit of justice regarding major injustices, or the proportionate, reasonable, pursuit of justice regarding minor grievances. According to Mullen and Lester, the life of the querulant individual becomes consumed by their personal pursuit of justice in relation to minor grievances.[1]

So, it seams like the correct translation of the Swedish “rättshaverist” is querulant. And that’s something I definitely not want to be. So instead of protesting I agree on being wronged. I agree on being trampled. 

I need to briefly walk you through what happened up until now.

In April I applied for help from the City with getting from my bed and couch to the bathroom, as well as being assisted to my treatments two times a week. In June my application was denied by the City and in November I appealed to the Court of First Instance (Förvaltningsrätten). And lost. 

Although my lawyer and I have very little hope about a different outcome, we are now in the process of appealing to the Court of Second Instance (Kammarrätten). The verdict is absurd in so many ways, and we need to make our voice heard one more time.

Meanwhile I have had a second application in process with the City. In July I applied for assistance with getting dressed in the morning and undressed in the evening, as well as supervising/help while washing myself, brushing my teeth a s o, those basic things we all need to do every morning and evening. At New Years my application was denied by the City.

Again, I had the right to appeal to the Court of First Instance, Förvaltningsrätten. With the experience from the last trial though, it felt hopeless. No point at all. On the other hand, what else could I do? I desperately need what I am asking for. They are basic human rights, and there is no other way for me to go. But to operate two litigations at the same time?

I talked to my angel lawyer who has charged me 5 hours and up until now surely put in at least 25. We pondered different scenarios and talked back and forth and finally agreed on not appealing the second application. Tomorrow January 19 is the last day for an appeal from me, and there won’t be one. Because of the imminent risk of me being judged as a querulant.

By not appealing and protesting I am giving the City right to deny me the help I so desperately need. They have beaten me. I feel like I am lying on my back on the floor, the City officials and the court sitting on my chest holding my wrists above my head to the floor. Up until now I have been lying in under them wriggling and kicking. Taking the decision not to appeal I stopped kicking. I have given in. I am still now. Beaten. I can hardly breath.

How do you rise from such a defeat? Where do I get the strength to take any other fight what so ever in the future?

All I am asking for is the possibility going to the bathroom, taking care of my personal hygien, getting dressed and get to my treatments. That’s minor things in a troubled world perspective and in that sense I am a querulant, surely. But to me, that’s my world. My troubled world.

Not appealing against a City decision so clearly lacking any kind of humanity makes every fiber in my body rise in protest. I feel sick. But by doing so I would be judged as  a querulant, “a person who obsessively feels wronged, particularly about minor causes of action. In particular the term is used for those who repeatedly petition authorities or pursue legal actions based on manifestly unfounded grounds. These applications include in particular complaints about petty offenses…The life of the querulant individual becomes consumed by their personal pursuit of justice in relation to minor grievances. (Wikipedia)

I can’t breathe. I feel sick.

Jan 11, 2015

A tulip remembrance

- Today I have realized how blessed these 26 years have been, for I have never felt this kind of latent and expanding fear before.
It’s my young friend Corina in Paris, posting her anxiety on Facebook.

I was at the end of it. My friend Jeff at the start. Only, we didn’t know about each other both joining, until we met up at our friends Terry and Doug later for dinner. And in the evening all of us watching a documentary short series in a typical Seattle basement fringe theatre. Being a part of something bigger. The collective grieving.
I am recalling this, following the horrifying and tragic situation in Paris this week. I was in Sweden when 9/11 changed the world forever. I know exactly where and when I was hit by the news, as I remember where I was brought the message of the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, Secretary of State Anna Lind, and of course JFK.
September 2002 I was in Seattle for the opening of my photo show Away is Home, Home is Away at the Nordic Heritage Museum. And September 11 was the one year remembrance of the Twin Towers collapsing before the eyes of the world.
It was a beautiful day. There was going to be a silent march starting at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle, ending at Seattle Center. When 9/11 happened, I felt so far away. Far away from my American city and far away from my American friends. So, I was grateful to be in Seattle on the one year day. I was given the chance to be a part of the tragic event, in remembrance.
I drove down to Seattle Center and was stunned by the sight. The big and beautiful International Fountain was surrounded, almost covered in flowers. All the people walking together from Westlake Center arrived in silence. Governor Gary Locke gave a speech. And there were bag pipes. It was all very dignified. And although the bag pipes, quiet.
It was intense, in a good way. I learned that a year ago, this was where people came together, an impromptu act. Seattle Center, which was built for the Worlds Fair in 1962, is the natural place for all kind of gatherings, and apparently also in distress. When the two planes crashed in to the heart of the U.S, the International Fountain with it’s soothing shape and form pulled Seattleites to the sound of the water, finding comfort in each other. And there were flowers. Drifts of flowers around the fountain. Flowers that were later transported away to become compost where tulips were planted. 
The experience was very emotional to me. I was overwhelmed and grateful. But a bit sad that I was alone there, in the midst of everyone. Afterwards I drove over to Terry and Doug’s. Jeff parked as I pulled over. And told med he had been at the start of the march at Westlake Center.  It turned out I hadn’t been alone after all. It felt good.
I have heard the New Yorkers felt alone in the world when 9/11 happened, like not even their fellow countrymen were there for them. I know Americans suddenly felt America was an island nobody cared for. That’s how lonely you can feel when cold fear eats your bone. When you feel no one have any sense of what you are going through.
More than 13 years have passed since 9/11. More people than we could ever imagine at that time, have lost their lives, loved ones, trust and faith to the world as a good and safe place to live, in terror actions throughout this planet of ours. But I’d like to think contemporary possibilities for communication and interaction brings us a little bit closer to each other. When cold fear eats your bones and no one is holding you, you are alone, you are. But a hug over the internet is better than no hug. A little pink heart can make yours pound a bit longer. And what can a tulip do?
The tulips planted in the compost out of the 9/11 flowers at the International Fountain in Seattle, had bulbs. And those bulbs were given to us who were there in quiet remembrance on the one year day. A beautiful sunny September day. I brought mine to Sweden and planted in my flowerbed. No, they didn’t survive the Umeå winter. But I am sure a lot of those bulbs handed out that day, did.

- Today I have realized how blessed these 26 years have been, for I have never felt this kind of latent and expanding fear before.
It’s my young friend Corina in Paris, posting her anxiety on Facebook. I responded to her: Corina, I am so sorry for the world and for you.
And Corina, I want to give you a tulip bulb. Imagine it, and plant it in your heart. And in every heart you meet. I know you will. And those bulbs will make it through any winter.

Jan 4, 2015

When New Year sucks

I am opening the envelope on New Year’s Eve. It’s from the official, handling my case at the City. I have applied for assistance when getting ready in the morning and going to bed in the evening. I need someone close to me when washing myself and brushing my teeth, putting on lotion, deodorant, that kind of basic stuff we all do to start and end our day. The application was denied. This matter is beside my case in the court where I was denied help to move myself from the bed or couch to get to the bathroom, and assistance to get to my treatments and doctors appointments.

So, why am I opening this envelope on New Year’s Eve? It’s been sitting there for a couple of days and I am pretty sure of the outcome of the application, yet I am choosing to open it on New Year’s Eve.

We have just entered 2015 and if you want to read something cheery about turning a page, committed new year’s resolutions, things can only get better from here and positive thinking changing your life, you can stop reading right here. Because here is a New Year’s observation from someone who is not allowed to leave the dark forces behind in 2014, seeing the light of 2015.

I am opening the envelope because I will spend New Year’s Eve by myself. Lying on my couch watching TV, knitting, like every other fucking evening during the year. I am not spending New Year’s Eve alone by choice. Not my choice anyway, a witty comment I heard the other day watching the wonderful movie Hotel Marigold. I have been doing it a number of times before. It’s extremely sad and it sucks. Therefore, I might as well open a declined call for help brushing my teeth in the morning.

2008: “I am alone on my couch watching the traditional Swedish PBS new years celebration. Sipping on cider and nibbling some snacks. Trying, at least. But it’s sad. For some reason I had this idea someone would get in touch with me this year. Ask for me. But no one did. Not even this year. Friends and family are having their celebrations. I am alone. With a tumor in my breast. I am alone with cancer. What if this is my last New Year’s Eve. And no one is asking for me. It makes me sad. You are not supposed to be alone on New Year’s Eve. Especially not with a deadly decease. 2009 will be the decease. I am crying.”
An extract from my journal 2008. But really, that must be the most horrible New Year’s Eve ever? No, there have been worse.
So, 2014 wasn’t that bad. Not bad at all. Neither I nor anyone else was dying. I did survive the cancer and here I am. I am grateful. Of course I am grateful. It still sucks though, being alone on New Year’s Eve, the home care people serving me my usual everyday dinner (my choice, I didn’t feel like buying something extra) feeling sorry for me, being upset for my sake.
I have accepted being physically limited and I am trying to make the best out of the situation. I am making a strong effort not poisoning the world with my darkness and I am mostly doing a good job in that sense. Being nice, cheery and chatty with home care staff and family, saving tears and fears for myself.
But entering 2015 I feel like I am stuck in solidified tar. For six months now I have been fighting the City for being assisted with the most basic things in life. Getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, getting dressed, having escort for my treatments to get me through the day. I am not asking for excesses. I think I am asking for human rights. And I am denied.
I am fighting so hard, and the harder I fight the deeper I am sinking in that tar. Entering this new year it is up to my neck, solidified, I can’t move. They have won. I am beaten by the system. No new year’s resolution can alter that. I have no page to turn. No positive thinking by me can change a protocol run city official and a court judge. And I don’t know what to do. It stops here. The dark forces from 2014 will continue running my life, there is absolutely nothing what so ever I can do about that. That’s where I am at the entrance of 2015. Stuck to the neck in solidified tar. In this sense, how can things only get better from here?