Archive for May 2003

A picture named yeller_rose.jpgEye Candy

This yellow rose bush has grown from nothing more than a stick that I brought from Ohio on a plane 20 years ago.  I don’t do a thing to it, except to preemptively whack it back now & then to keep it from taking over the yard.  When it blooms, I know summer is on its way.

A Bump In the Night

We had a 3.7 (Richter) earthquake Thursday evening.  We were sitting at our computers last night sipping a drink and catching up on whatever we catch up on (my wife calls it ‘the electronic hearth’) when we felt it, a single jolt, as if someone had dropped something unusually large next door.  I suspected it was a quake at once, but was puzzled that there were no follow-on tremors.  The memory of the 6.8 Nisqually quake on 2/28/01, which caught me at a client’s in the unstable liquefaction zone south of downtown Seattle, came to mind at once.  That one had rolled interminably, and I waited it out under a desk with someone I usually didn’t like to even be in the same room with. 

We walked outside (drinks in hand - I’m choosing my earthquake companions more carefully these days) where several neighbors had gathered.  We had a great time catching up on gossip, and I got to hold the next-door neighbor’s baby for the first time.  We resolved to lobby the city to sponsor more frequent earthquakes.


Hell On Wheels

Dusted off my rollerblades Monday afternoon.  I hadn’t been on them since last fall, but I wanted to get some exercise and was tired of the same ol’, same ol’.  From my house, I can walk a mile down to the Burke Gilman Trail at Gasworks Park.  There’s a store there called Urban Surf that rents and sells blades, and they have a couple of benches where I can change into & out of the blades.

I use the full load of blade paraphernalia - wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads and helmet.  I carry all this in a daypack, along with my cell phone and Archos Recorder 20 .  I had strapped on all of my gear, selected my tunes and was ready to hit the trail.  Just one more thing - put on the helmet.  Oops.  I had forgotten that the headphones I brought were not “helmet-ready” - instead of wrapping my head at neck level, they arched across the top of my head.  So, before even standing up on the skates, I had my first crisis - tunes or cranial protection?  Being a mature adult, there was no decision - the helmet went into the backpack, and I set off down the trail to the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra .

Antibalas is a horde of musicians from New York, including a 5-man horn section, playing a driving and infectious brand of music that is perfect for blading.  We were introduced to them at last year’s Bumbershoot Festival .  After a tenuous start owing to the long layoff, I got my stride and began to groove.

The Burke Gilman is a former railroad bed that has been converted into a trail for bicyclists, bladers and other non-motorized transport.  It runs for 13 miles, skirting the northwest shore of Lake Washington, and joins up with a second trail that heads east of the lake.  The combination allows you to travel 25 miles in one direction.  Owing to its railroad origins, any grades are very gradual, which is beneficial to me because, frankly, I can’t stop myself very well on my blades (except as noted below).

The trail is a proven jewel of a park, but attempts to add to it are uniformly opposed by property owners (as, indeed, was its original construction).  In Seattle, there is a 5-mile segment linking the trail with Puget Sound that has been obstructed for years by commercial and industrial interests whose businesses would be traversed by the proposed route.  The City has had possession of an abandoned railbed for years, but has been stymied by intense lobbying.  While I’m not insensitive to the legitimate concerns of businesses who need access to the waterfront, I think a lot of the opposition is simply the old property-rights crankiness.

Similarly, at the east end of the trail system along Lake Sammamish, King County owns a railbed that runs along the water, and crosses the waterside lawns of many high-income residences.  They have been vehement in their opposition to completing that segment of trail, even though it seems it would be preferable to a railroad.  The problem probably lies in the fact that their McMansions were built after the railroad quit running, and they felt they could always bully their way past any public use of land that they didn’t own in the first place.  They whine about safety issues and increased crime, but this flies in the face of the experience of property owners along the already-completed parts of the trail, who always emphasize their proximity to it when putting their joints up for sale.

I think these rail-trails are terrific public assets.  To support railbanking efforts in your area and nationwide, join the Rails To Trails Conservancy.

I skated along for 6 miles, then turned back.  Just as I hit an extended downhill run that I had been looking forward to, I hit a wrinkle in the pavement and my skates went out from under me.  Reflexively (I’ll die with the word on my lips) I yelled, “Fuck!”, probably even louder than usual because music was blasting in my ears, no doubt dampening any sympathy I might have gleaned from the mother-son bicycle duo that was just passing in the opposite direction.  Despite all the armor I was wearing, I fell backwards and smacked the pavement on my butt and thigh. 

When things like that happen to me, my first concern is always how stupid I look, not how badly I might be hurt.  As nonchalantly as I could, I scrambled off the pavement and into a fetal position.  After a few minutes waiting out the pain, I gingerly put pressure on the leg to see if anything was broken and to assess my chances of completing the trip.  Eventually I stood up, selected some more tunes and rolled tentatively back home.  See, I didn’t need the helmet after all.


An Outing on the Yacht

We went kayaking on Lake Union Sunday. We used the Agua Verde parking lot to launch (they used to be really easygoing about it, but now they and the adjacent marina have gotten real proprietary about the parking spaces - another of the endangered species Freebius Seattlus bites the dust). Still, Agua Verde is a cool little restaurant and an amiable place to rent kayaks.

We paddled west, under the University and I-5 bridge, past the hulk of the Kalakala (see below), Gasworks Park and up the ship canal.  Gasworks Park was once a coal gasification plant that was turned over to the city of Seattle.  Only later did they find that it was a burbling quagmire of toxic stuff.  It’s been stripped of soil and recapped, and a gas burner runs 24×7 trying to burn off benzene that emanates from underneath.  Even so, it’s a great location from which to view downtown and Lake Union, and it’s a frequent destination for our evening walks.  The rusting hulk of the gasworks presents a striking silhouette from many angles.

Although Seattle is surrounded by water, we lived here for 20+ years without having anything to do with boats except for the cross-Sound ferries.  In the early 90s, I started renting kayaks for a couple hours at a time, and found I enjoyed being on the water.  I finally bought my own kayak a couple years ago. 

There’s a slower pace to life among boaters of all stripes as opposed to land-based activities, owing perhaps to the higher viscosity and density of the medium.  Flail as I might in my kayak, a competent runner on shore will outdistance me, and a bicyclist will be a blur on the horizon.  There was a time when I would spend almost all my free time bicycling, and the comparison I like to make with kayaking is that, on a bike ride, if you notice something you’d like to inspect closer, you have to make the effort to find a spot to stop the bike, pull off the road and break the flow of your activity, get off the bike and maybe park it.  You’ll only do this once or twice during a 30-mile bike ride, and spend the rest of the time worring about traffic, or watching the pavement.  In a kayak, you simply stop paddling and look as long as you want.  Plus, being on the water affords views and perspectives of the city I never had from the streets.

A picture named boathouse.jpgWisteria-bedecked boathouse

A picture named Downtown_View.jpgDowntown view

A picture named Gasworks.jpgGasworks Park

A picture named Gasworks.jpgGasworks Park

DeLay’d Gratification

It seems that Canada and the U. S. are engaging in a little continental drifting.  Canada’s marijuana laws are getting less stringent, and their gun laws more so:

Here’s a really telling anecdote about Tom Delay and the Texas crowd’s attitude toward power:

Sad to say, however, our House of Representatives is run by a man — Texas Rep. Tom DeLay — who chews tobacco and smokes cigars.

Recently, as The Washington Post reported, DeLay and cronies lighted up cigars at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in D.C., which is in a building owned by the Smithsonian and falls under a federal smoking ban.

A manager politely cited government policy and asked DeLay to snuff out his stogie.

“I AM the federal government,” DeLay bellowed at him, and then stormed out.

Were he to smoke a joint, DeLay might be better able to control his anger.