Picture 2


There’s a Samoan man in sharp leather who calls me “Center of the Universe.” It’s because I that’s how I announce Third and Pike/Pine. Tonight, somewhere on Jackson, he launched into the following tirade, which I need to contextualize by saying it was yelled hoarsely by him with a smile on his face. I had just innocuously fared someone well with “happy holidays.” From the middle of the bus, which is scattered at this late hour with faces rugged but friendly:

“Stop sayin’ that shit, man, ‘happy holidays!’ It’s bullshit and you know it!” Arms histrionically waving in the air. “It’s about Christmas! It’s ‘Merry Christmas!’ This holiday is about praisin’ the Lord from up on high, man! Fuckin’ happy holidays, forget that brother, this is about Jesus!” I’m laughing and he is too. He’d be a great preacher.

“Is that right?”

“Yeah it’s right, praisin’ the greater glory of God, don’t hide it! You know better! It ain’t about the merchants, we can’t be celebrating the merchants, ‘happy holidays,’ they’re just tryna make money off tha Lord! Its about the, it’s about Jesus repayin’ our debts and rebuildin’ that church in three days! Don’t say ‘happy holidays!’ I heard you sayin’ that bull, it ain’t no happy holidays,”

“I been sayin’ both! You heard me mixin’ it up!”

“Merchants just after your money, everybody use it as an excuse to buy stuff, they max out their credit cards five years with a swipe! Buy more this year than they did last year!”

“Well, I know that’s true!”

“I’m just thinkin’ aloud, guys,” he says, downshifting. “Thanks for listening!”

“Hey, I’m down, you can say what you gotta say!”

“Thanks for hearing me out, everybody!”

Later on, he said, “hey, what’s your name?”

“I’m Nathan. Nathan.”

“Nathan. I’m Patu.”


“Patu yeah, I’m Samoan. You’re a great bus driver great guy.”

“Thank you. It’s always good to see you!”

“Have a good night! And–” forget political correctness for now, as we holler at each other in unison–”Merry Christmas!”

Later that night, an elderly Jamaican regular looked at me askance after I had diplomatically said “happy holidays.”

“I define my holidays,” he said. Dramatic Pause. Then: “Merry Christmas!”

Okay then! “Merry Christmas!”

I suppose it’s similar to how I feel about the term Caucasian. The etymology derives from the Caucasus Mountains, located between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, with specific reference to the 18th-century populations which lived on the southern slopes. Neither I, nor my father nor any of his ancestors have ever had anything to with the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. I guess I prefer the non-PC “half-white” or “non-white” or yes, “mixed-race,” or the tentatively canonized “hapa.” Or we could all just settle for “Muggle.”

Having said all of that: Happy Holidays!

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Nathan Vass has had work displayed in over twenty photography shows, designed a book and three album covers, including two for Neil Welch. His “My Favorite Things” tour at Seattle Art Museum was the highest-attended such tour there. Nathan is also the director of eight films, four of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. He owns a photography business, Two Photography, with Larry Huang, and has photographed a dozen-plus weddings. Born in South Central LA, he holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Washington, and is also a prolific writer and sometime painter. Formerly a Hollywood resident, he still contributes film reviews to Erik Samdahl's site, Filmjabber. In addition, he holds a side job as a public bus driver, which he enjoys almost as much as directing films- if not slightly more so! He is a two-time winner of Metro’s Operator of the Month award and holds a record number of commendations.