CHS Crow | Charles, Noa & Qwo-Li — ‘You have to have another job to pay the bills’

This week, the crow learned a few lessons about paying the bills. What did you learn?



What are you up to this evening?
We’re going to a housewarming party later, you should come with us!

Wow—you just invited a random stranger to come to a party with you! That is so cool. You’re not from Seattle, are you?
No, I’m from Philadelphia.

How did you end up in Seattle?
I went to school in Vancouver to study game design, and then I got a job in Seattle.

What do you do for a living?
I work for Big Fish Games as a game tester.

Did you play video games for fun before you started doing that professionally?
I did. Still do.

They say that working in a chocolate factory kills your taste for chocolate. Has being a professional in the industry affected your taste for video games?
If you work in a chocolate factory, you might still like sweets, even if you’re not so much into chocolate. I just play different kinds of games at home than at work.

This is such a beautiful spread in front of you. I was just walking by, and I had to stop. Tell me about the food.
My friend Jenna here is an amazing cook. She can tell you more than I can.

[Jenna: Yesterday we had Korean barbeque, and we had a bunch of leftovers, so we invited a few friends over to help us eat it. I grew this lettuce…]

That’s amazing. I feel like I’ve walked onto the set of that show on the Food Network—you know, the one where Ina Garten cooks all this fabulous food, and invites her gay friends over to eat it? Anyway, Charles, how did you come to be here at Ina Garten’s house party?
I saw a Facebook message from my friends Jenna and Ryan, saying they were going to cook some leftovers before we all go to this party later.

Do you live on the Hill?
No, I live in Belltown, but I’m hoping to move here soon. Especially since practically all my friends live on the Hill.

If you can hang out at places with home-grown lettuce and Korean barbeque spreads, I don’t know why would you go anywhere else, but do you have any favorite hangouts in the area?
I really like the Narwhal and the Unicorn.

Narwal is the bar with all the video games, right?
That’s the one. I play a lot of video games…


NOA, 20

This is quite a tableau: three women with crowns of fresh flowers on their heads, lying on the grass—it’s like a live-action Botticelli painting. What brings you out to the park today?
Beautiful sunshine! We just wanted to lay in the sun…

Tell me about your crown of flowers. Are you a wood nymph of some sort?
My friend Vivian here made us all crowns from those flowers right over there [indicates flower bed].

You seem like an artistic person. Are you an artist?
I do poetry, over at Hugo House. But for a living, I work for a locksmith.

Can you pick locks?
Yeah. I have a lock-picking set.

I was just at GeekGirl Con, and I was talking to some women who are into lockpicking for fun. It’s kind of like hacking, I guess—getting into things, around barriers, problem solving… Do you ever sit around picking locks on your days off?
No, for me it’s just a job.

What would you like to do over the long term?
Eventually, I want to do poetry writing …

I hear that’s a lucrative field. Hedge fund managers, software magnates, poets…
Yeah. You have to have another job to pay the bills.

Do you have any of your poetry memorized?
Not anymore. I used to do slam poetry, but I’m not really good onstage…

[Noa’s friend interjects: Not true! Her poetry made me cry—before I even knew her. I heard a couple of her poems, and it made me cry. At the show, I was in tears. Her work is really moving.]

Your poetry makes people cry—that’s pretty high praise. Do you have any particular subjects you focus on?
My life…lots of love poems. You know, angsty things.

Do you live near here?
No, I live in Belltown.

Any favorite hangouts in the area?
Bauhaus … other coffee shops.

What do you think is the sexiest spot on the Hill?
Hmmm. Neighbours? It’s sexy, but pretty raunchy. Or Hot Mama’s Pizza. I love that place.

Any plans for the rest of the day?
Sitting in the sun. That’s all we do. Hangin’ out!

What’s going to happen when the summer ends?
I’ll go back to sitting in my basement.


QWO-LI, 37

You have a great name. I’m guessing it’s Asian, and yet…?
Actually, it’s Cherokee.

Interesting. Are you Cherokee?
I’m Cherokee, yeah.

What does Qwo-Li mean? “Wandering Flute Master”?
No, it just means “Paul.”

Okay, I’m two-for-two with the “stupid cultural assumptions based on no information.” Anyway, you play beautifully! Tell me about your flute, music, etc.
I was just improvising, there. I’ve been playing the flute since I was a little kid, and I play off and on to busk.

I imagine busking takes a lot of guts—it’s like performing in front of an amorphous, chaotic audience…
It depends on where you are—I usually just busk on Capitol Hill. You have good conversations with people, sometimes other musicians stop and play, do a little improv concert….

Do you have any favorite hangouts on the Hill?
Honestly, a lot of the places I used to really love aren’t here anymore—Habitat Espresso and Four Angels Café, for instance. That was about ten years ago, but I think those community spaces were really important.

Are you a Seattle native?
I lived here for five years, then I left to do my Ph.D. Then, I taught at Texas A&M. Now I’m going to be teaching at Oregon State, but I’ve been living here with my partner for several months.

What’s your academic field?
Rhetoric and writing, and Native Studies and Queer Studies.

So, if you’re going to be teaching at Oregon State, I guess you’re moving to Portland. What do you think you’ll miss the most about living on Capitol Hill?
I’ll miss the Hill in general—for me, Seattle is Capitol Hill. I like that it’s a Queer district. There’s not a neighborhood like the Hill in Portland; there’s not really a Queer district in Portland.

It sounds like you’ve lived in this area, off and on, for a long time. Have you noticed a lot of changes over the years?
Yes. I worry right now about people getting priced out. I feel like the things that make the Hill interesting and a place people want to be are at risk of being pushed out. That’s something community members should try to stop.

I guess there’s no easy answer, but do you have any ideas on how to achieve that?
I think rent control and things like that are really important. Also, remembering what makes Capitol Hill unique—having communities of Queer and Trans people, artists, misfits and weirdoes, and I think it should hold on to that and not get “normed away.” There’s a cultural shift happening that’s making it a lot more “one-percenters.”

More CHS Crow:

Marguerite Kennedy is a freelance writer, semi-professional thumb wrestler, and recovering New Yorker who currently resides on Capitol Hill. She blogs at, and does that other thing @tweetmarguerite.

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7 thoughts on “CHS Crow | Charles, Noa & Qwo-Li — ‘You have to have another job to pay the bills’

  1. Rent control is not a good idea. Basically the area will go to crap because the quality of landlords you get goes down the toilet. Take away the profit motive and prepare for some craptastic apartments.