Friday, April 17, 2015

Driving Me Nuts... In Seattle

Hello everyone! I hope you all had weeks that were more wonderful than the thought of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory reenacted by dragons!

This past week I had the opportunity to go to Seattle. Technically the trip was so I could go to a mandatory training for my job, but that doesn't mean I didn't get to go look at some pretty ocean scenery and hit Pike Place Market.
The Peace and Calm is Deceptive

It has been a very long time since I was last in Seattle (shameful considering I live in Spokane, I know).

Somehow I forgot one major factor: Seattle traffic is a bit like trying to navigate a Salvador Dali painting.

So for those of you who may in the future travel to Seattle by the magical mechanical wonder known as the 'motor vehicle,' I have composed a short manual to help you survive your trip.

The Roads Have More Curves Than Marilyn Monroe

When I first arrived in Seattle I was struck by how few trucks and SUV's I saw, which are basically mainstays everywhere else in the Northwest. Then I had to traverse to my hotel in my Dodge pick-up and quickly realized why.

Whoever planned Seattle's streets apparently was not a fan of using a ruler. In fact I'm pretty sure that Seattle's roads were based off of a plate of spaghetti that someone had thrown against the wall in frustration. I found myself praying that I wouldn't roll my truck just trying to make it off the freeway (which made a u-turn, followed by a turn in the opposite direction, followed by a steep curvy road that ended with a slew of confusing signs).

Seattle Apparently Gives Out Driver's Licenses In Cracker Jack Boxes, No Tests Required!

At least that is my assumption based off the ass-hattery that I witnessed. To be fair there seems to be two distinct kinds of Seattle drivers:

Type 1: The "invincible" driver. This kind of driver believes that no matter which way they jerk the steering wheel at a moment's notice they will somehow emerge unscathed.

Turn signals? Bah! Staying in one lane? Why would one do that!? After all, they are still alive, which proves their point right?"

Type 2: The "I've set my cruise control to a snappy 35 miles per hour" driver.

It does not matter what the speed limit is, you could be in a 70 mile per hour speed zone and this person will be going 35. It could be a 25 mile per hour zone, they will still be going 35. Furthermore, they will change lanes at random intervals, but instead of deciding to change lanes and doing so they just lazily inch over to the next lane, blocking two lanes of traffic for as long as they possibly can.

Put these two types of driver on the road together en masse and you have utter chaos.

Parking? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Parking!

I'm relatively sure that Oompa Loompas driving Smart Cars were the ones who decided how big parking spaces in Seattle should be. In some half-baked effort to squeeze as much real estate out of what space Seattle has for resting vehicles, they decided to aim for the smallest possible parking spots. Forget parking a truck in Seattle, there are spots that make parking a Mini Coop like trying to dock the Titanic at a dock designed for a paddle boat.

The Seattle Residents' Response To Tiny Parking Spots? "We Will Be The Worst At Parking Ever!"

Not only is parking sparse and tiny, but people in Seattle seem to be competing for the "Worst At Parking" Award.

I literally watched one person in a Jetta take a whopping six parking spots at once at a Safeway. At that point you have to be making a conscious effort to be that terrible.

Driving Is A Bit Like Gambling

It is obvious that Seattle's road crews have done their best to keep up with a growing population, expanding the transportation infrastructure to allow for more motorists. However, in expanding and changing a lot of the roadways they forgot one important step: Get rid of the old road lines that used to define which lane was which.

There were points where driving through Seattle I literally had to guess at which lines meant I was in the correct lane and which lines would lead me into a road barrier somewhere down the way. I wasn't the only one who was obviously confused either. On multiple occasions I watched as other drivers, sure that they were following the correct lines, suddenly swerved across traffic in attempt to follow a curve in the road that no longer existed.

Seattle Has Your Strange Road Signs Beat

 Never in my life before have I seen a sign that read, "Caution: Hidden Driveways," much less see it on nearly every other block in some areas.

It made me wonder what the hidden driveways were plotting. Should I be worried about a hidden driveway ambush?

In any case, aside from trying to navigate without losing my mortal life, I quite enjoyed my time in Seattle. Is there another place you know of with fun driving habits? Let me know in the comments below!

As always my adventures can be closely followed on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and you find my books here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Public Service Announcement

Hello all! I hope everyone's weeks were more fantastic than the thought of hockey playing kangaroos!

Well, we're finally seeing the first signs of spring! The sun is shining, the temperature is above freezing and you don't have to wake up half an hour early to scrape ice from your windshield.

This means it is also the time of year that I must give my annual Public Service Announcement. So in the interest of public health and collective sanity: GO OUTSIDE!

Seriously, put down the laptop, phone, video game controller or whatever electronic tether you're currently tied to and go gather some natural vitamin D.

Go for a walk, grab a book and read in a park or just go outside and take in some deep, warm breaths.

Don't be one of these:

No! Go on, get out there. All of this will be here when you get back!

And when you do get back, don't forget to come follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and check out my books here.

Friday, April 3, 2015

No Room to Judge

Hello all! I hope your weeks have all gone better than the thought of a reenactment of Guardians of the Galaxy performed by cats.

I recently had a moment that reminded me that, while everyone's perceptions of reality are different, mine are probably a little more warped than your average Jill.

It's not that I don't believe that other people have strange occurrences in their lives, I know they do! It's more a matter of frequency.

Having worked in the past as a street outreach worker, a bouncer, a concert house lighting technician and my current job as the head of security for a homeless shelter means that I've been exposed to a myriad of strange experiences. (Need proof? Check out my two books.)

It has gotten to the point where chaos and bizarre circumstances almost feel natural to me. I'm sure that someone else would look at a man dressed in a green, full-body, spandex suit running around screaming, "I'm a leprechaun! I'm a leprechaun!" and find that a rather rare, if not scary, experience. For me, I just call that Tuesday.

I did not realize how much my perceptions of what 'normal' and 'sane' had been skewed until recently, at the end of a work day, when I happened to look up at the television screen that had been flipped on for the clients to watch. On the screen, I found myself looking at a grown woman tap dancing while dressed as a ladybug.

For a brief moment I watched the woman and actually thought to myself, "Wow, TV-land is one weird place."

Then I paused for a second and realized that not five minutes before I had just ended an hour-long battle with a woman who refused to wear pants because they were 'of the devil.' The only way I could get the only-t-shirt-clad woman to put something on her lower half, was to convince her that because this was a Catholic owned shelter, the pants' very presence in this building meant that they were safe from any form of possession.

Before that I had been forced to stop a heated argument between two grown men over whose tattoo was more faded, and earlier that morning I had to tell someone that iguanas were not technically service animals.

I looked back up at the woman on the screen, dancing her heart out in her little red and black costume and realized, I probably was no longer a great judge of what constituted as 'weird.'

You do you ladybug lady, you do you.

Anyone else have any perception revelations of late?

In other news, "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor" has garnered itself another five star review! Reader Brenda writes, "A great escape into the unknown and the funny. This is a quirky, off-beat tale that filled me with delight. The author has unusual voice that had me laughing out loud. A bit on the bizarre side that I took pleasure in."

See the full review here

Don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and check out my books on Amazon

Friday, March 27, 2015

No Food For You

Hello all! I hope your weeks have been more fantastic than the thought of 'Swan Lake' performed by baby pigs.

While this is mostly a humor blog, I do sometimes feel the need to address ridiculousness that I see out in the world. Today is one of those days.

For months I have seen posts on Twitter, Facebook and even in the news about how those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding (more commonly referred to as food stamps) should have to pass a drug test to qualify.

At first blush to many I'm sure that that sounds like a fantastic idea. Sadly, that first blush would only last about .05 seconds before the negative effects of that kind of legislation would bring would begin to show themselves. So today your friendly neighborhood social worker is going to explain to you why drug testing for food stamps is not a grand idea!

Just to give you all a little background, I have worked with impoverished populations for my entire adult career, have helped the government perform studies on homelessness (I even wrote some of the parameters for state and federal programs) and am considered enough of an expert in my field that I have been asked to teach students (yes, your children) about poverty in the United States by both public and Christian schools. I've taught classrooms full of first graders and given lectures to university students.

I say all that so that I can say this; drug testing for benefits will cost the government an insane amount of money and won't actually punish the people who some (wrongly) feel need punishment. Here is why:

1. It's already been proven not to be effective at saving money. In fact Florida tried it. No really check it out. Out of the 4,068 people tested, only 2.6% tested positive for drugs (most of the positive results were for marijuana, not hard illicit drugs). The state spent over $118,000 dollars on the drug testing alone only to waste a majority of that money on people who, surprise, were not using their SNAP funding to buy drugs.

2. The government systems to run SNAP are already overloaded. In Washington state alone there is such a backlog on six-month checkups for food stamp recipients that now an automated system has been put in place with a lottery system to audit whether the check-ups have even been performed. This means that about one in twenty participants will be audited a year. Why? Because Washington State lacks the money to hire enough people to review each and every single case. 

DSHS is the largest government organization in Washington. So tell me, how much manpower are they going to have to hire to cover their current deficit plus this new drug testing program? In Spokane we don't have enough money to fix our pot holes in the road, you want money to check for every pot head? Good luck with that.

3. Drug addiction is a complicated matter. You don't cure someone from drug addiction by saying "No food for you!" You only make already desperate people more desperate. Want a higher crime rate? Deprive drug addicts of basic necessities and see what happens. You want fewer people to use drugs, how about we stop closing down treatment facilities that supposedly 'cost too much.'

4. A mass majority of food stamps and welfare recipients are not drug addicted fiends. You want to know the biggest demographics of SNAP users? It just so happens that the highest percentages are Caucasian, working families with children or with an elderly relative in the home. 

So implementing a system for a tiny minority that is using some form of drug that is going to cost extreme amounts of money is short sighted and ridiculous. Not to mention the amazing inconvenience we would, as a nation, be putting people through just to get one of their basic necessities met. It already can take six hours to do a six-month recertification, and we want to add a pee test to that?

5. Taking away food stamps, even from people who test positive for drugs, has the potential to take away food from a child. That's right, sometimes people who use drugs have kids, and those kids' only source of food is welfare. Yes, it sucks. Yes it's not right, but there it is. The majority of those who benefit from programs like SNAP and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) are children. 

So before we blindly hurrah behind the "I don't want my money going to addicts" rhetoric, let's think about the consequences and who we would actually be hurting. Answer: Mostly working families with kids and ourselves for wasting our own tax dollars.

As always I can be found on Facebook and Twitter and check out my books on Amazon

Friday, March 20, 2015

Living Dangerously

Hello everyone! I hope your weeks have been better than the thought of 1920's jazz performed on kazoo's!

So it has become apparent to me that not even the hallowed 'Halls of Justice' are immune from my abilities to attract the bizarre in the world.

This past week I had to go to court to file something for work, which happens on occasion when you're the head of security for a homeless shelter.

All I needed was a judge's signature on one document, and I would have been home free. Knowing that life rarely allows for the simplicity involved with "all you have to do is just..." I had brought my trusty book.

It was a good thing I did so, because getting that one little dash of ink took nearly three hours. For my part, I was just dandy. I had my copy of "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and this was the closest thing to a break I'd had from my crazy life in days.

There was this adorable little, very flamboyantly gay, court assistant who whisked back documents to the judge with flair. He greeted everyone with, "Why, hello there! Isn't today just a peachy day to be in court!?" 

With my book and no clients to tell to stop licking the walls, I thought so.

I was only two pages into my book when I heard a small disruption. By 'small disruption' I mean I watched someone run into a bench, apologize to it, then plunk down on the same bench with all the grace of a pregnant hippo.

There was a cloud of rum that wafted in my direction as the court assistant approached the person, who was suffering from the depressing side effects of living like a Jimmy Buffet song. The attendant almost choked on the smell coming from this man as he asked, "What can we... urp... help you with sir?"

The man blearily looked at him and said, "I's supposed ta come ta this here court room today..."

"What for?"

"I got dis bull DUI charge... I wanna give the jug a piece of my mind..."

Everyone in the room blinked at the inebriated gentleman as the court assistant blinked rapidly, "Well... umm... sir, you're in the wrong place, sweetie. You need to go next door to traffic court, okay?"

The drunk guy narrowed his eyes trying to decipher the words that had been offered to him. Finally something clicked and he shoved himself to his feet and staggered out the door.

The assistant fanned the air that the man had just vacated and went about his business saying, "Good luck with that case."

I returned to reading my book and made it a whole three more pages when the courtroom doors opened again and someone plopped in the chair next to me.

He was sixteen, with a round face and all the acne that an awkward teenage experience could provide. How do I know he was sixteen? Because he had his license out and in his hand and I could read his birth date. 

Now keep in mind I was wearing my security uniform that read, "SECURITY" in giant letters.

I kept reading my book, only acknowledging his sitting right next to me, in a room with thirty other empty chairs, with a slight nod of my head.

"So what are you here for?"

I kept my book open as I replied, "Work."

"What do you do?"

I pointed at the giant lettering on my shirt and said, "I'm the head of security for a homeless shelter."

Now, I'd like to think this would have made most people pause for a second and contemplate their future word choice. Nope, he was obviously too young to have learned that lesson yet. The tyke next to me said, "You're cute. Do you like dangerous men?"

I didn't respond, turning a page in my book and continuing on my Sherman Alexie adventure. Unfazed he blundered on, "Because I'm here for a ticket. I drove 50 in a 35 mile zone."

I blew out a sigh, "Yesterday I had someone at work try to jump over a bench to punch someone in the face. Driving slightly above the speed limit doesn't make you dangerous, that makes you mildly annoying. Also I'm twenty-five."

The court assistant, who had been helping a woman a few chairs down from mine, heard the entire exchange. The kid sitting next to me told the assistant, "I thought she was like, eighteen."

The adorable court assistant smiled and said, "Awwww... Kid, work on your lines. Also, you need to go one courtroom over for traffic court."

So what lessons can be pulled from the docket of experience?

1. Arriving drunk to contest a DUI charge is perhaps not the best plan of action.

 2. If your idea of 'danger' is driving fifteen miles above the speed limit, I might suggest not trying your hand at becoming an international spy.

3. Apparently the guards at the front doors of the court building do not check or care if someone walks in drunk or stupid to their court date, but heaven help you if you're wearing boots with metal lacing holes.

In other news, "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor" received another 5 star review! Reader BookNoseRose writes, "This book is SO FUNNY! I loved Ms. Hawn's first book and this one is just as good! Definitely pick it up if you need a laugh!"

Remember, reviews save authors! 

Don't forget to follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and check out my books on Amazon.

Friday, March 13, 2015

And the Winner Is...

Hello all! I hope your weeks have been more fantastic than the thought of a hundred-thousand gerbils running through Central Park to the tune of Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.

Well, for those of you waiting with bated (or non-bated) breath, the results of the contest are in! Thank you everyone who voted on Facebook, it was pretty close between a couple there right at the end.

The title of my third book, if I can ever get it off the ground, will be "Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx!"

Out of the 50 or so people who voted, I also drew a random name for a signed copy of "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor" and that person is Kendra Wisenbaker!

So congratulations to Kendra Wisenbaker! Thank you all again for participating in my 'moment of indecision' contest! 

For future rad contests don't forget to come check me out on Facebook and Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and check out my books on Amazon.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Struggle Is Real... A Little Help?

Hello all, I hope you have all had more fantastic weeks than the thought of Emma Stone smacking Glenn Beck in the face with a fish.

Full confession: One of the biggest struggles I have as an author is coming up with titles. How difficult is it for me to title something?

Well, I have written an entire book (which is in editing phases right now) and have yet to title it. It is currently sitting on my computer literally labeled, "Book 3, You Should Probably Rename This At Some Point."

Keeping in the theme of the first two books, "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" and "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor," I want the title to mesh with those. To that end I have come up with, "Life is a ______ Run by a Sphinx."

Now, here is where you all come in. I have come up with three options with which to fill that blank; Library, Speakeasy and Roller Derby.

I have decided to let the public decide which of the three they would like to see on the cover of my next book! To have your Democratic say, all you have to do is vote here!

What's in it for you? Aside from knowing that you're helping to take the pressure off of my shoulders, I will be giving away one signed copy of "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor" to one of the voters. Now to be entered in this contest you not only need to vote, but you need to like the contest post pinned to the top my Facebook page, so that I know that you voted.

That's all there is to it, vote and then like and you're entered!

Speaking of "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor," it got another 5 star review this week from reader Anna Burke who writes, "... A well-written, entertaining book that you should have on hand after one of those days at the office, on the road, in a line at the grocery store, trying to talk sense into a teenager or your boss..."

Read the full review here.

Don't forget to take part in the contest on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and Amazon.