CHS Crow | Stephen, Karyn & Whitey — ‘Yes, and I’m an herbalist’

This week the crow learned there is still plenty of work to do. What did you learn?


What are you up to tonight?
I’m still working, actually. I’m a hairstylist here [at Raven, on Pine St.].

How long have you been doing hair?
I’ve been at this salon for about three months, but I’ve been doing hair for four years.

What drew you to this line of work?
It’s a long story. I moved over here with my partner, and he always wanted to do hair, so he signed up for beauty school. I signed up three months later, but I was like, “What the hell am I doing?” But, as it turned out, I loved it.

Are you a Seattle native?
No, I grew up in Eastern Washington, moved down here about five years ago. Just trying to make my millions!

Why did you guys choose to come to Seattle?
Growing up in Eastern Washington, I always thought Seattle was a big city, even though it’s not that big. It seemed like moving to “the big city” to me.

So, same-sex marriage is officially legal in Washington. Will that affect you and your partner’s relationship?
No, but I think it’s great. It’s wonderful that people who want to be legally bound to the person they love can do that now, but it’s not for me. Not yet, anyway.

I read earlier that about two-thirds of same-sex marriages in this country—in states where it’s legal—are women. Why do you think that is?
I could be digging myself in a hole here, but I think female gay relationships tend to be a little more…how should I put this? Women aren’t as big of whores as men are.

Interesting thought. Do you live on the Hill?
No, I live in Shoreline. It’s not too bad of a commute.

How do you like living in Shoreline?
It’s quieter there, and more affordable. We have a house and a yard, and birds…

What kind of birds?
Parrots. Big Macaws.

Those are smart birds, and they seem to live forever. I know people who have parrots who are older than they are.
We have a four-year-old and a 21-year-old.

Wow. Your parrot is old enough to buy beer. Do you ever send him down to the 7-11 to pick up a six pack?
They walk down there with me sometimes!

I just ate a late-afternoon cheeseburger next door, but don’t tell anybody! Do you have any guilty pleasures on the Hill that will make me feel better about that?
Sometimes I spend all my tip money next door at Li’l Woody’s.

Dude. How many hamburgers are you eating, if you’re spending all your tips? They’re pretty cheap…
It’s not just burgers. They’ve got the holiday shakes, and the onion rings… They have a caramel pumpkin and an apple pie shake right now that are really good.

Now I want to go back for a shake—damn you! Do you hang out on the Hill very often, outside of work?
More so in the summer time when it’s a little warmer. But it’s the Hill, so you can always be entertained. Good people watching!



Are you a Seattle native?
No, I grew up in New York. But I moved here in 1989—more than half my life now, so I feel like a native.

Where in New York?
I grew up in sexy metropolitan White Plains.

What inspired you to move to Seattle?
I was going to move to San Francisco, but then I came here first and fell in love with it. I almost moved to San Francisco, like, a dozen time. Then I finally was like, “This is home.”

Did you know anyone in Seattle?
I had one friend, who I came to visit on my way to San Francisco. And she had this amazing situation, and I met the most amazing people and got an amazing job right out of the gate. I just landed well. I thought, “This is heaven!”

I assume you’re the proprietor of this shop [Sugarpill on Pine]?
Yes, and I’m an herbalist.

Why did you decide to become an herbalist?
By necessity. I had some health problems as a kid, and Western medicine wasn’t very effective. When I moved here met a woman who was an herbalist and we started working together. I eventually went and became a massage therapist and studied homeopathic medicine as well. Then I apprenticed to other herbalists, and learned it like you would learn a language.

Why did you choose to open a shop on the Hill?
I’ve always worked in this part of town, even though I live on the Southside. I just like how diverse the population is here. I’m a singer, so I’ve been part of the arts community for a long time and a lot of my clients are dancers and artists and musicians and people who make our lives beautiful, but who don’t always have health insurance. I wanted to stay where my people were.

Do you think artists and musicians are attracted to alternative medicine for economic reasons, or just because they’re more in tune with non-mainstream ideas?
I think it’s both. It’s still not accepted in most parts of the country, but it is around here. But still, it’s expensive to go see a naturopath or a practitioner. And for good reason, because these people are trained and they spend time with you. But a lot of what I know, we should all know. It should be taught in schools. We should be brought up with it. Part of why I have a store is so I can give that away. So if you come in to buy some olive oil, and you have a cold, I can help you. You don’t have to make an appointment. There are things in your own pantry that can help you. That’s one of the biggest services that I can offer.

I think that’s really beautiful, that you want to give away your services to help people.
That’s why I sell everything else, so the business supports me in being here. It’s a different model of business; it’s retail, but there’s a service element to it. People don’t even know what stores are anymore. If you shop here, then you keep me here on your street, and I can help you.

What kind of singing do you do?
At the moment, nothing, because I’m here all the time. I’ve done a lot of classical music, I used to sing in esoterics for years, and I’ve done a lot of jazz and singer-songwriter stuff. I really love ensemble singing. It’s really something to be in a big room full of people who are all making sound at the same time.

Any favorite hangouts on the Hill?
I love the Century Ballroom. I think it’s the most amazing place in the whole neighborhood. There’s so much happening here, and so many restaurants, it’s hard to point to any one in particular. I love that there people out and about and there’s a real center of gravity here. It wasn’t always like that back in the day.



Whitey? Is that the name on your driver’s license?
No. It’s short for my online handle, which is White Trash.

Why did you pick that as a handle?
Back it the day all my hardware computer equipment was typically jerry-rigged. At an early age, someone described it as “white trash.” They were using it in a somewhat derogatory sense, but I came to use it as a badge of honor.

What brings you out tonight?
This is the night every week when all the local hackers get together and have a good time. To break the mythos, Seattle hackers at least are very social people. We might not see each other for months on end, but when we get together, it’s like we just saw each other yesterday.

Subverting expectations seems to be a big part of the hacker identity. How do you personally define the term “hacker”?
Anyone who is interested in taking the confines of anybody else’s technology and expanding upon that by doing things the original author didn’t intend, or didn’t concept. Sometimes that comes in the form of violating the security thereof. But it’s not always being the bad guy. Sometimes it’s just being clever.

Hackers in Seattle all seem to party like rock stars. Why do you think that is?
A lot of the other hacker cultures throughout the country are very reserved and very tight-knit, and I think that’s just a facet of stereotypical hackers. In Seattle, the weather and work schedules part of being a hacker and having that mentality is breaking the mold of what’s expected of you. So the Seattle hackers have gone out and gotten as wild as possible, as social as possible, and staked their claim in the city.

Are these folks you first met IRL (“in real life,” for any non-geeks readers), or did you meet them in the ones and zeros, so to speak?
Half of them I met in person, just from living in the city. Half I met online before moving to Seattle. Some of them are professional contacts. A lot of the people that come here, for instance, are people I’d read about or heard about before I met them.

How—and why—did you become a hacker?
I moved over to Germany from Michigan at the age of seven, after my father passed away. My mother was working in the Civil Service, and we relocated to Germany because my brother was enlisted Air Force. We were living off-base so we weren’t exposed to a whole lot of Americans, and I didn’t speak German. To keep me busy, my mother bought me my first computer—a Commodore. I bought magazines and books and sat around at home and learning to program. At one of the computer stores I would go to in Germany, the guy spoke a bit of English, and he asked me if I’d ever been online. He introduced me to modems, and I used to get online and go to the BBSs [Bulletin Board Services] that he recommended.

When was this?
Must’ve ben ‘85, ‘86.

So, you were like Matthew Broderick in that movie War Games? Did you ever accidentally decrypt any nuclear warheads?
Nothing that interesting. There was this billboard system that was mostly in German, but an area was in English. And most of the posts came from people on military bases who were posting in English. The idea of piracy wasn’t as prevalent as it was now, so I started out as sort of a wares runner. Because I could get on one BBS and download software from there, and get credit to get other stuff I didn’t have.

What do you do for a living?
I do computer security; break-and-enter work. It’s kind of a hobby, I grew up doing this, and eventually someone said, “We’ll give you a paycheck for doing that.”

What’s a project or a hack that you’re especially proud of? That is, one that you won’t have to kill me after telling me about it…
Obviously, I’m not going to talk about anything illicit, but one thing that was amusing—back in 2000, Radio Shack had this little USB device called the CueCat, that was used for reading bar codes. So we would take online data and encrypt it using strong encryption, and convert that encryption to bar codes, and print it out in multi-level format so you could fax it to other people and they could read it with the CueCat, and they would have a physical hard copy of the crypted data in bar code format that you could read in on the computer, so you could fax encrypted data instead of emailing it.

I am nodding vigorously, as if I totally understand everything you just said. Do you live on the Hill?
I currently live in Belltown. If you have to walk home at night after partying, it’s always nice to walk downhill. I used to stay up here and go out in Belltown, and walking uphill at the end of the night is a lot less fun.

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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4 thoughts on “CHS Crow | Stephen, Karyn & Whitey — ‘Yes, and I’m an herbalist’

  1. It’s too bad you are interviewing and posting about a guy who freely admits to “illicit” (aka illegal) activities on the internet. Sometimes hackers make life very miserable for thousands of other computer users. They should be condemned, not legitimized on a blog.

  2. Hackers do tons to shame people and companies into improving their security, both as independent third parties and in-house. Did you miss the part where Whitey said he got paid to hack? That sort of sanction is as far from illicit as you can get.

    Serious question: If you have so many credulous and judgmental opinions, Calhoun, along with your apparently-copious free time, then why don’t you write a column–heck, or even just one blog post at a time–and let people throw stones at you for a change?

  3. Please note that it was Whitey himself who used the word “illicit” to refer to at least some of his internet activities.

    I do not apologize for having some strong opinions. You are free to disagree with me.