Guide Service

On Saturday, we played tour-guide for a friend from high school whom we had not seen since 1980. In fact, we’d only exchanged sporadic Christmas cards for most of that time and, since we stopped sending them altogether a few years ago, even that exchange was entirely one-sided. For the last 5 months, I’d been carrying her 2008 card around, meaning to respond via some sort of snail-mail device, but I just couldn’t figure out how to use a stamp you can’t lick.

A couple of months ago, however, she found me on Facebook, and two-way correspondence resumed. It turned out that her husband has been commuting to Seattle from their home near Boston, teaching for a semester at Bainbridge Graduate Institute in the idyllic Islandwood setting, and she wanted to use it as an opportunity to make her first-ever visit to Seattle.

Her intended arrival last weekend coincided with the last weekend of her husband’s semester. She’s a person who makes decisions and gets things done, and by the time we started talking dates and times, she had an itinerary put together for her and her husband that included a day in Seattle, a jetboat trip to Victoria, BC for a day there, and a float plane trip from there to Vancouver for two days in that lovely city.

Saturday turned out to be their Seattle day, so I picked her up at her downtown hotel in the morning and we hustled down to a ferry bound for Bainbridge and an opportunity to see her husband’s teaching venue. As luck would have it, Saturday’s weather started out gorgeous and then improved as the day played out. Mount Rainier stood completely disrobed and dominated the southern horizon to our left as the ferry left the terminal, and the Olympics beckoned us from the west.

We found the Islandwood venue, and her husband guided us around the facility. It occupies about 250 acres of second- or third-growth timberland that became available in the mid-90s and was secured as a quasi-wilderness encampment for school children’s outings, corporate retreats and the like. It was designed and built out using as much “green” technology as was available at the time. They even treat their own sewage.  I remember reading about it when it was first endowed, but this was my first opportunity to see it.  It’s nice to see an opportunity like that capitalized upon.  It’s a sweet setting, and will only improve as the trees thicken back to old-growth dimensions.

We had lunch there amongst faculty and students, and it quickly became apparent that her husband had been a huge hit.  So many faculty and students engaged us as we walked around that I started to feel like I was traveling with Mick Jagger.  It was very gratifying to see the mutual enthusiasm he and they had for each other.

We were finally able to tear him away from the facility and spirit him onto the ferry back to Seattle, where Mrs. Perils was waiting to meet us for some city tour-guiding.  We had intended to head directly for Pike Place Market, the levitating fish, etc, but Mrs. Perils advised by cell phone that the place was mobbed with participants in some huge cheese festival.

We decided to instead walk along the waterfront to the Olympic Sculpture Park, an outdoor exhibit sponsored by the Seattle Art Museum.  It’s been around now for about two years, but we hadn’t yet seen it ourselves.  Pictured below are three pretty interesting pieces:

  • Eagle by Alexander Calder, 1971
  • Typewriter Eraser by Claes Oldenburg, 1999
  • Perre’s Ventaglio III by Beverly Pepper, 1967

(Click any photo to enlarge)

I’d like to go back after I’ve done a little research into what’s there.  I left Saturday thinking that it could host a few more pieces, but after perusing their web site, I see that there was a lot of stuff that I missed, probably due to the multi-level design of the place and the amount of socializing we were doing.

Once we’d zig-zagged through the Park, we headed back up Western Avenue to the Market, which had by then thinned out to the point where it was somewhat navigable.  Fish were thrown and observed, the original Starbucks store photographed and a fascinating cavalcade of people rubbed and bumped against.

We initially wanted to have dinner at Etta’s, a seafood restaurant right next to the Market, but their waiting list was too long, so we diverted across the street to a place called Cutter’s, where we noshed on sushi and other delectables and sipped beverages.  The sun was setting gloriously as we settled up, and we walked outside to Steinbruck Park for one more look at the Sound:

Anecdote from the wayback machine: I was in the company of our friend and Mrs. Perils on the occasion of my closest opportunity to participate in a bar fight.  Our friend was in Columbus to join her parents to watch the Ohio State-Michigan game, and Mrs. Perils was in town visiting me as well.  The three of us were out on High Street sampling the campus bars, and had landed in the Heidelberg North, a dingy underground grotto of a place with the ambiance of an ill-maintained urinal.  As we sat at the bar drinking beer, we were approached by a fellow who apparently felt that I had no business in the company of even one gorgeous woman, let alone two, and made it plain that he intended to prise one or both of them away from me.  I stepped between him and them (afraid to give either of them the opportunity to voluntarily ditch me) and told the guy to buzz off.

Fortunately, he was so drunk he could hardly stand.  After some unintelligible insults, someone guided him gently away for a nap on a distant barstool, maidenly honor was saved and I was spared the ignominy of dying on the floor choking on sawdust of dubious provenance.


  1. beatriz:

    Yeah, so like, that guy was viewing us through “beer goggles”…

  2. This provokes my never-less-than-murmuring desire to spend a very long time exploring further the North-West, which I visited all too briefly in 1992. Short of cryogenically freezing the kids for a few months, it’s difficult to see how this might be achieved. Meanwhile, vivid accounts like this will provide a little vicarious satisfaction.

    I love the anecdote, Phil.

  3. Carroll:

    Love the bar story. And obviously you need to continue to post anecdotes like this on an increasingly-regular basis so we can work poor Dick down to whatever point of insanity would be required for him to make that long-awaited trip, kids and all.

    Dick, I’m telling you — fly into SFO, leave the kids with us, and you and Emma can go off on your own and… Oh wait. It just occurred to me. Having not actually “parented” in such a long time, and having not yet been re-introduced to the art through grandchildren, realistically we’d likely be dead in what, maybe something under two hours of trying to deal with what you have to handle on a regular basis? Hrmmmm. I guess that wouldn’t quite give you time to pop in on Phil then after all.

    Do put it on the “maybe someday” list though, OK? Like someday before we’re all too d@mn old to be able to dodder around and show you the sights?

  4. Phil:

    Dick - If you ever got here, we’d have a blast. Lots of music of the type you guys play, and eye-popping outings, even with kids.

    Carroll - “working poor Dick down” is much too much the story of my life now ;-) (just couldn’t resist. The poor bastard can’t help his name.) Dick, you fly into SFO with your kids, we’ll fly in with my MIL, and Carroll can have all the extended-family jollies she can take. We’ll run off to the Napa for serial wine drive-bys, and swap lies large enough to deserve their western setting.