The voters of King County are amusing. When, in November of last year,
the People were presented with the unusual opportunity of having a crowded urban
neighborhood removed and replaced by open pastureland - The Seattle
Commons - they dutifully made their way to the polls on voting day in record
numbers and in their wisdom declined the offer by 14 votes as if in some sort of
sometimes, if fortune smiles, the electorate is given the chance to not merely
express its will but to do so coherently. The Commons mysteriously appeared on
the ballot again last May: smaller by half, no more retractable dome, more
expensive, but otherwise the same. And the Emerald City looked into that mirror
called civic-mindedness and asked, "What sort of city do you want to be,
Seattle?" And The People strode boldly back to the polls and defeated The
Commons by a margin of over a million votes, which of course is what they had
intended to do in the first place.
(Teens proved highly influential in the matter by not being old enough
to vote for The Commons in numbers strong enough to carry it to decisive
With The Commons on
the ballot again in November and then again in April of '97, Seattle voters are
wondering who to thank for these repeated opportunities to reflect, consider
inner needs, and embarrass city planners. Well, the brain-child of The Commons
is a local character named John Hinterberger, who came out of relative anonymity
as a Seattle Times food critic to ride The Commons steam-roller to a career as a
failed radio personality. Nowadays, with the campaign coming to a climax,
Hinterberger is busy working the interview circuit and for the time being has
given up writing his column very well.
Frankly, the enigmatic Hinterberger made it difficult for us. But after
a dozen unreturned phone calls, faxes, even a couple of requests declined in
person, we finally agreed to interview him. Reporter Gary Durkimer was assigned
the task; the two got together last Thursday.
(Sound of knocking, door
JH: Hello, I'm John Hinterberger. Did I wake
(Later, freshened by a
quick shit and a couple of bong tokes, I was ready to start the interview.)
GD: (Reading) Seattleites voted for the bus tunnel and the new
baseball stadium. So they're perfectly capable of voting for a shitty idea. What
happened with The Commons?
JH: Been mulling that over. Here's what
I've come up with. When a group of local celebrities takes it upon themselves to
improve the lives of those around them, one of the first things that has to
happen is there has to be listening. And I have to confess that maybe
there wasn't enough of that. They evidently weren't listening to us. It may well
be that they are incapable.
GD: (Still reading) Do you think the
problem was there wasn't enough listening?
JH: Folks might wonder
about the strategy of having The Commons scheduled to be on the ballot every
year through the year 2012. But it's like this: Seattleites are a practical
bunch. They'll eventually realize that repeatedly voting down the same
initiative wastes time and money.
GD: Listen, when you first came up
with the idea, what the fuck were you thinking?
JH: Well, it started
as a prank, of course, but as more and more people took it seriously I realized
it was in fact a bold vision for improving the lives of the decent, hard-working
citizens of this shitty little town.
GD: Are there any businesses
located in the area where The Commons would go?
JH: No, not especially.
JH: Not after The Commons is built, no.
GD: How about the
JH: Those, yes, but they won't really be demolished
businesses until after The Commons is built.
GD: Because I was
wondering if I could get in on some of the demolishment.
Glad to have you on board. (He shook my hand. His hand was very soft.)
GD: And then we would leave the area in its new, cool demolished
condition. (Reading) I realize that you would prefer that we put a park there.
Question: who gives a fuck what you think?
JH: Oh, trust me, people
care very much what I think: I give unsolicited advice for a living. I'm the
food and restaurant critic for The Seattle Times.
Interesting. Um ... could you make me some cereal?
JH: (Laughs) You
don't understand. I can't cook. I can't even operate the controls on the average
stove. What I can do is taste. I can taste the hell out of pasta, cheese,
you name it. And it stands to reason that I can conceive the hell out of a
spacious urban park.
GD: Huh. Okay, Mr. Taste. Prove it. Taste this.
(I hand him something.)
JH: (He tastes it.) Intriguing. (Tastes it
again) Dill ... saffron. Odd, cheese-like flavor. Do I ... do I detect a
whisper of ground bone? (Laughs) Young man, you've stumped me. What is it?
GD: A Snausage, man. (I laugh long and loud) Just kidding. I don't
know what it is. It was stuck here between the couch cushions. What kind of name
JH: Well, the name itself is German, although my
family lineage is primarily Polish. You know, my grandmother was killed by the
Nazis during the Warsaw Uprising.
GD: Whoa! Why?
... that's what the Nazis were doing in those days, you know.
Jeez. Wow. Sounds suspicious. Hey, did you hear about the Polack who tried
auto-fellatio? Burned his lips on the exhaust pipe.
JH: I ... I
GD: Seriously, though, did you ever try auto-fellatio?
JH: Well, if it's what I think it is, I would have to say no.
GD: Are you uptight? What do you think of sex? Do you like it?
JH: You know, I'm not really here to talk about that. I'm here to
talk about getting the taxpayer to finance my vision for a better Seattle for me
to live in.
GD: You live in Bellevue.
JH: A better Seattle
for me to visit.
bored, and turn on the TV. We watch soaps for a while. He excuses himself as if
to go use the bathroom, but I can hear him rummaging through the kitchen
cupboards. When he comes back, he's chewing on a Snausage. Back to the
GD: (Reading) Seattle has parks up the butt. The
Commons would destroy thousands of lives. We are going bankrupt as a nation. Why
did Seattleites vote against The Commons?
JH: You know, The Commons
will lead to less crime. It's true.
Urban parks deter the criminal element.
GD: Dude. (Laughing) That
makes no sense. You are such a liar.
JH: (Laughs) Yes, I suppose I
am. Did you vote for The Commons?
GD: Me? No.
JH: And why
GD: I only first heard about it yesterday.
Alright, but now that you've been educated, would you vote for it?
GD: (Thinking) Could they move it to Lake City?
(Writing) Mmm. Lake City. Mm-hmm.
GD: I've always thought bow-hunting
sounded cool. Could there be bow-hunting?
JH: (Writing) Everything's
on the table.
(Sound of door
Mom: Gary, who is this man?
Hinterberger, ma'am. You've read my work in the Seattle Times.
(A look of horror slowly passes over her face) I want. This ... man. OUT OF
JH: Madam, if you allow me to stay, I will, in return,
generously critique your cooking. (And here the dude tried to hug my
(My mom picks him up
and throws him out of the house so fast that he forgets to take his
Mom: Check to see if he stole anything. (Goes into
kitchen) Gary, have you been in the Snausages again?
GD: Mom? Looks
like he stole the Game-Boy. (Which in fact I had sold to Brian.)
(Enters living room) Jesus. Jesus Fucking Christ. You expect me to buy you a
snow-board. When you can't even take care of the shit you have already.
GD: Maybe shit like this wouldn't happen if Dad was still alive.
(Quietly) If you hadn't killed him with your fucking nagging.
What did you say?
Mom: What did you say?
GD: I don't know. What did you say?
Mom: Did you
say what I think you said?
GD: (Sarcastically) I dunno. Maybe if I
could read your fucking mind I would know what you
The sharp-witted among you have no doubt deduced
that the above account is spurious. Imagine: interview John Hinterberger. We
would never do such a thing. No, this is our interpretation of such an
interview. Which, after correcting errors of usage and grammar, we then
parodized cruelly. And after that we still had to change a number of lines
because the imaginary Hinterberger was frankly making something of an ass of
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