Tabs Open #5: Grandfather Always Said That God Was a Fisherman


Welcome to Tabs Open!

This week: the power of garbage men, poems to punch you in the mouth, teacher walkouts, and more. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

1. We’re going to start off political this week, but I promise we’ll veer into happier territory once the ugly stuff has been dispensed with. I wanted to share with you one of the more convincing (and easy-to-read) pieces of political writing I’ve come across in the last few years. As the Democratic Party primary field widens, most candidates are attempting to distance themselves from the pack with policy solutions that appeal to the donor base and continue the wonkish trajectory of the Obama years. 

But if the last 3 (really, the last 9) years have taught us anything, it should be that technocratic tinkering with the crumbling, bloated machinations of an empire not only doesn’t really help people, it doesn’t get them to vote for you, either. “Keep It Simple And Take Credit” provides a compelling case for fighting for universal programs (Medicare for All and tuition-free college, for example) over means-tested patchwork fixes that add more paperwork to people’s lives (like tax credits for childcare or the online healthcare exchange). I know which side my bread is buttered on this election season; I, for one, am not waiting with bated breath to see which of the 20 or so economic moderates in the race get savvy enough to start paying lip service to these ideas. Author Jack Meserve illustrates the sides here eloquently:

This shouldn’t even be a liberal-socialist divide, although it seems to have become one in recent years. When society decided citizens should be able to read, we didn’t provide tax credits for books, we created public libraries. When we decided peoples’ houses shouldn’t burn down, we didn’t provide savings accounts for private fire insurance, we hired firefighters and built fire stations. If the broad left takes power again, enough with too-clever-by-half social engineering. Help people and take credit.

If the American Right is good at anything, it’s the exercise of power; consequently there has been little actual resistance from elected liberals. (A liberal, as the old saw goes, is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in an argument.) Enough appeasement, enough of policies engineered with donors in mind instead of workers. We’ve got a world to win. 

2. Last Tuesday the students and faculty at the college where I teach, Seattle Central, walked out. The demonstration was part of a larger effort regionally to get the state legislature to start taking the issue of community college funding more seriously. I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty financial details--you can find them in the piece linked above--but the rub is that faculty pay at Washington community colleges lags about 12% behind that of faculty in comparable states. This is exacerbated in Seattle, where the cost of living is astronomically higher than in other places in the state. 

It goes without saying that issues of labor and class consciousness are extremely important to me. To be able to participate in such a powerful show of our collective power was heartening and invigorating. (Look for some bonus content later this week about this walkout, the political landscape in Washington state, and how this all relates to recent policy proposals regarding tuition-free college and debt cancellation.)

3. Okay one last labor story before we proceed into the other miscellaneous bits of goodness you’re probably here for: Monday’s “An Ode to Sanitation Workers,” a tidy history of America’s dirtiest job and a sharp piece of analysis on the power that garbage men have to change the world. I just feel really fortunate to be alive and reading during the same time period that Meagan Day is alive and writing, you know? 

4. One of the coolest things I saw on Twitter this week was a guy who made a few loaves of bread with a yeast starter that was scraped from the inside of some ancient Egyptian pots. He documented the whole process, from milling some grains closely resembling what the Egyptians had 4,000 years ago to actually shaping it and baking it. Unrelated but if anyone knows where to get some ancient Egyptian pots that haven’t been scraped yet shoot me a message. 


5. After the walkout was over last Tuesday and I’d gone home from Capitol Hill I found out that one of my favorite poets and essayists, Hanif Abdurraqib, was reading in a few hours at Elliott Bay Books, just across the street from my school. I zoomed back down there to a packed basement reading room and for 90 minutes got to listen to him speak in between readings of his selected poems and essays.


It’s one thing to read Hanif’s work, but I was totally unprepared to hear it read aloud. He has a way of lulling you into soft laughter and a sense of security before punching you in the mouth with a line that tells you you knew what this poem was really about the whole time and just tricked yourself into pretending you didn’t. I can’t do justice to how it felt being in that room hearing him read--breathtaking, I guess. I’ll leave you with two of my favorite poems of his: “When We Were 13, Jeff’s Father Left The Needle Down On A Journey Record Before Leaving The House One Morning And Never Coming Back” and “And What Good Will Your Vanity Be When The Rapture Comes.”

6. This newsletter is and will remain staunchly pro-bat flip and pro-shit talk in professional sports generally. (What was it the Miami Hurricanes said? “If you don’t like us dancing, keep us out of the end zone”?) Needless to say I went bananas the other day when Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson flipped his bat into the stratosphere after launching a pitch into the nosebleeds--baseball is supposed to be fun, after all. But Royals pitcher Brad Keller retaliated by throwing a pitch at Anderson during his next at-bat, hitting him and causing a benches-clearing brawl.

A word that Anderson--the victim here--used in the ensuing fracas resulted in him getting suspended by Major League Baseball. My friend and former Land-Grant Holy Land colleague Harry Lyles, Jr. dove into what’s so frustrating and myopic about that decision for SB Nation. Like everything Harry writes, it’s appointment reading.

7. On Monday my sister-in-law gave birth to her first child. I know she and my brother will be outstanding parents and my whole family is over the moon about little Hazel coming into the world. In that spirit, I wanted to close with my favorite song about becoming a new parent, Sturgill Simpson’s “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog).” There’s that joy I was musing about last week. 

Thanks for following along this week! If you’re enjoying Tabs Open, feel free to tell your friends where to find the newsletter.