Parents, Penis, and the Kite Runner

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

I'm new in town. What's the most appropriate reading material for the bus?Lonesome Rider

Dear Rider,

While wandering around Woodland Park Zoo, I sometimes wonder what it's like for the hippos, giraffes, and wallaroos imprisoned before me. Among a million other questions I'd ask my fellow mammals (were we able to communicate across the chasm echoing futilely between our species) is: Are you sometimes as disoriented in our temperate-yet-brisk climate as I—even as acclimated as I thought I was—am?

I think my point is clear: I'm sensitive to the confusion you might feel as a bus-riding outsider. And I'm thrilled you've chosen to join the quiet sewing circle we form around our "Most Literate City" championship banner. But what, indeed, should you read? The Economist, Harper's, The Kite Runner, Malcolm Gladwell, Naomi Klein—all impeccable choices. Harry Potter is OK if you don't mind being taken for an amateur. David Sedaris? Passable, but may earn knowing looks from the same group of us who also silently judge those still reading Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut. "Ah, college," we think, as we settle back into our Jeffrey Eugenides, Annie Lamott, or Richard Russo. Dinaw Mengestu's The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears will convey tacit disapproval of colonialism. The Seattle Weekly is not as terrible a choice as you might think, but keep a cool distance. Make sure you say, "I'm just checking out what the corporate-owned media wants us to think," or, "Did you know they totally didn't cover grunge when it was happening?" If you're in the IT industry, C++ in a Nutshell is pretty unassailable, though you may risk being outclassed by a guy across the aisle fondling the massive slab of his Standard C++ IOStreams and Locales: Advanced Programmer's Guide and Reference.

If for some reason you have nothing to read, iPod use is perfectly acceptable, though it seems vaguely uncouth to cut yourself off from other people, even if they're people who will never talk to you anyway. Some solve the dilemma by taking out one ear bud and smiling about sheepishly. There's no shame in sudoku, but it's not exactly the same as a crossword, is it? Not even the Monday puzzle. In any case, you'd better bring a pen if you want to hang with the real cruciverbalists. So you see? You can take your place in this silent Metro menagerie as comfortably as the rest of us.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

women like men whats in mens pants shtmo. pappy adult rabin enter zoom hasidic yuletide greene lair weak upshot entice wattle kenton watt optic idea. han. joan. i got a 8 inch do you?

Dear oradlv25,

When I was a kid, a man's most important accessory was his wallet, and the bigger it was, the better. Now it's his phone, and the smaller the better. Sensitivity to the signal is the important thing. Small and sensitive, that's the way to go. If you have 45 minutes or so, I would be happy to provide some commentary on the effect of digital technology on masculine self-image. Information is like a humming cloud that can obscure the sharp edges of our identities. That's the gist of it. But of course a lot of things haven't changed. One of them is that it's still just plain rude to suddenly start talking about a man's penis.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

My parents fight a lot. Are they going to get divorced?Sad Second-Grader

Dear Second-Grader,

You know what oil is? Dinosaur bones! Pretty neat, huh? But oil doesn't last forever. Despite this fact, the energy paradigm of the industrial world is an overwhelmingly petroleum-centric one. Your parents' relationship is analogous to oil usage in that it seemed like a good idea at one point, but now faces an uncertain future. Now, have you heard about wind power? That's when they make electricity with these cool windmill things in a big green field. Smart people call that a "renewable energy source." That means it has no end. Which is just like the love your parents have for you, no matter how much they act like big dummy heads to each other. So remember that wind lasts forever, and hang in there, OK kiddo?

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