Archive for the ‘Seattle Postcards’ Category.

Iconic Moments

So a Seattle Mariner pitcher (Hishashi Iwakuma) threw a no-hitter tonight.  I’m delighted for him, and for the Mariner dugout, which I’ve come to like this year as I’ve allowed myself to watch more baseball on TV.

During my time here in Seattle, I’ve pretty much disdained the Mariners.  They’ve thrived on public money while penuriously divesting themselves of quite a chunk of the Hall of Fame because they didn’t want to pay to keep them (hello Ken Griffey, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Varitek).  I still suspect their personnel tactics, but I think of late it’s not so much that the club is cheap as much as no one with talent wants to play for the franchise, given its history, and perhaps its ballpark.  They had to pay franchise dollars last year for a superannuated second baseman (Cano).

So, back to this evening’s no-hitter.  Every now and then for this franchise, something special happens. And, because they relentlessly trade away the top talent, you can’t predict to whom that special night will accrue.  Tonight it was Iwakuma.  (Interestingly, Iwakuma was nearly traded at the July 31 deadline by the GM, but ownership overruled him, probably due to the Japanese connection)

Similarly, I remember one night in 1990 when I’d checked into a televised Mariners game, probably while brushing my teeth and preparing for bed, because that’s about the only time I watch television, and apprehended that Brian Holman had not only a no-hitter, but a perfect game, goin’ on.

I rushed upstairs and woke wife and child because I thought they would be fascinated to be involved in a pivotal historic moment.  Reluctance, eye-rubbing and resentment ensued as the 9th inning began.  Holman got 2 outs, and I thought I would be redeemed among the skeptiscenti.  But then, former Mariner Ken Phelps hit a home run with 2 outs in the ninth, Holman’s achievement devolved from national banner headlines and a possible White House visit to a mere box score curiosity, and the crazy-dad meme was reinforced as skeptical beds were reoccupied.

Still, there are moments that engorge the typeface and grab you around the neck if you’re adjacent to them, even if by accident, and you memorialize them as best you can.  Some RCB and Facebook friends attended the game tonight, as well as most of the employees of one of my new clients.  Tomorrow will be interesting, with conversations veering wildly from the business at hand.

Tonight’s game, and the Holman game, remind me powerfully of perhaps my favorite Twilight Zone episode.  It involved a perennial loser team, the Hoboken Zephyrs, who quite by accident acquired a lights-out pitcher named Casey.  Casey provided the Zephyrs an incandescent few weeks, until his secret leaked: he was a robot.  As suddenly as the Zephyrs’ fortunes rose, they plummeted due to very interesting circumstances.  If you don’t want to watch the whole episode, just watch the first 5 minutes that include Serling’s lyrical lead-in, which almost bring me tears.

The Mariners had a Zephyr-like renaissance in the late 90s before descending to the more accustomed Zephyr/Mariner experience.  Unlike the Zephyrs, who mercifully faded out of existence, the Mariners zombie on.

There Goes The Neighborhood

A couple of amusing signs sighted as I walked around our neighborhood (click to enlarge)

The one on the right is an apartment building in the vicinity of the Fremont Troll.  Looking at the Troll, I think a 1-bedroom might be kind of tight.

In a sad bit of news from the ‘hood, one of our long-time favorite joints, The Luau, has closed.  Just a few blocks away, it provided an aura of tropical vacation on many a drippy, dark night. There are plenty of other places a few steps away from the house to grab a beverage, but we’ll really miss this one. (ED: Those two drink pictures were not taken on the same night.  All right, they probably could have been, but they weren’t.)

Afternoon Delight

Another blogging deadzone this week, with lotsa work and some social obligations. I managed to squeeze in a weight workout session last night at a gym up the street, and tonight (Thursday) I retrieved my bike from my client’s file storage closet and headed out on the prairie for a nice 20-mile ride on a pretty midwestern pre-solstice evening.

I have some photos from last week that I’ve been meaning to post. On Thursday last, anticipating my travel-shortened weekend, I played a little hooky in the afternoon, and enticed Mrs. Perils to venture across town to a lovely in-city wilderness, Discovery Park.

THere’s a loop trail that, in 3 - 4 miles of hiking, takes you through varied terrain - forest, salt-water beach, high bluffs  overlooking the Sound.  Below are some beach pics (click any photo to enlarge):

From the beach, the trail heads up through forest to a sandy bluff with a commanding view of Puget Sound. I love foxglove, and was really pleased to see a patch of them on the upclimb (photo on left). Next from left is a view of the West Point lighthouse, around which we’d just walked, with an exceptionally low tide; the next is a ferry crossing the south end of Bainbridge Island (the day was a little hazy at times); and the pic on the right looks south towards downtown Seattle.

I get a kick sometimes out of the graphics on warning signs:

Friday now, and I’m posting from the Minneapolis airport, so I think I’ll upload this and start on a new one, which I may not get to post before my 9:45 flight home to Seattle.

Summer Camp

Last weekend I hooked up with one of my kayak clubs and paddled across Puget Sound to camp out on Blake Island, a marine state park accessible only by private boat. The weather was simply stunning - clear, warm, perfect. This was the first time that I’ve loaded this boat (a Current Designs Gulfstream II) for camping, and I wasn’t sure whether it would hold all the gear I wanted to take. I have two other kayaks that are a little more capacious, but this is the boat I want to paddle in almost all cases. Everything fit fine (lower left), and the boat handled well despite the load.  GPS track of the trip across here.

I think we ended up with nearly 30 in our group at the camp area. We all came from different directions around the Sound, so we didn’t all arrive in one ravening horde. A puzzling bit: out of all these campers, I don’t believe any two tents were alike. I brought along a brand new tent (lower right) which we’d bought at an auction a couple of months ago. You’d think I’d at least set it up once at home just to see if all the parts were there. But, no, the first time it came out of its bag was right there on the campsite. Happily, it wasn’t dark or rainy or both, and I was able to puzzle out pole insertions, rain fly positioning, etc. (Click photos to enlarge):

It’s cool to be able to launch from the city, paddle a short 4 1/2 miles and feel like you’ve flown off to paradise. I got way too carried away photographing Mount Rainier, fully visible from the campsite:

I actually tore my eyes away from Rainier to check out some other sights. There are trails on the island, and it’s about a 3-mile hike to go completely around it. Below are photos of Mount Baker, another volcano north of Seattle near the Canadian border, and a glimpse of the Seattle skyline available on the north side of the island:

I didn’t carry a stove with me, and had to be content grazing on cold and sorta boring food like salami, string cheese and pretzels. I did stow a bottle of chardonnay to wash them down with, though. Others with more camping experience prepared more scrumptious stuff, including a guy who baked brownies in a little enclosure that sat atop his little stove. And one guy with a double kayak left his wife at home and filled the hatch she would otherwise occupy with a loaded cooler:

Slide show with more pics here.

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.

Saturday Studiousness

I lolled around in bed this morning until 11, alternately reading a novel and cruising the morning papers on my laptop.  I used a long-overdue haircut appointment as a catalyst to get out of the house for most of the afternoon.

After my haircut, I walked to a cafe, bought my second espresso of the day and settled in with my book again, determined to get the first 100 (of its 400+) pages read, just to establish a beachhead.  The novel is The Virgin In The Garden by A. S. Byatt, and it’s this fortnight’s book club selection.  It’s dense with meticulous description and deliberate pacing, much in the mode of Iris Murdoch, whom Byatt admires.  It lacks the romance and interpersonal sizzle of the more accessible and popular Possession, but I’m drawn to its intricacies.  I’m also seeing a little hint of Gravity’s Rainbow in its delving into parapsychology and mathematical puzzling, but that may prove to be a mistake as I advance.

Mission accomplished, I set out for a little stroll around the ‘hood.  Things are blooming an blossoming all over, and I walked through this metaphorical tunnel between winter and spring (Click photos to enlarge):

I passed an apartment window that had an interesting table decoration. When life deals you lemons…

When I saw the license plate bracket on this car, I knew I’d find some piece of Washington State Cougar insignia elsewhere on the car:

Tulips are coming into their own, a little bit late, here in western Washington:

More culcha tonight - we’re off to the Intiman Theatre to see a stage adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. After today’s stew of philosophical sturm and drang, I’ll be parsing tomorrow’s Sunday comics for signs of humanistic nihilism vs. moral values that can only come of religious faith. Watch out, Doonesbury!

LunaSea Kayaking

Last night was a full moon here in Seattle, and a few of my kayak buddies and I thought it would be cool to observe it from our boats. In a major upset, the evening was almost crystal clear - temps in the 20s, but little to no wind. We launched near Gasworks Park on Lake Union and paddled towards the University of Washington.

As we turned into the Montlake Cut, the moon revealed itself gloriously, making a river of light on the water and a silhouette of the Montlake Bridge in the air (Click to enlarge):

Usually the Cut - a short canal connecting Lake Union with Lake Washington - is rocking and rolling with motorboat wake, but last night it was our private reflecting pool.  We paddled through it and into a bayou-like area near the Arboretum.  There we consternated several herons, who squawked and took to ungainly flight, as well as several beaver, who slapped their tails on the surface of the water to show their displeasure.

We stayed pleasantly warm despite the water droplets from our paddles trying to freeze on our decks.  Visually, it could have been a balmy summer night.  GPS tale-o-the-tape here (which also includes the car trip down to the lake, due to user malfunction).

Sprung Forward

So, you know that hour that went missing last weekend?  Wouldn’t you know that was the very hour that I had set aside for blogging.  And now here I am on Monday morning with a handful of photographs and no text.  I stare balefully at the clock on my Windows toolbar, knowing that, of all the clocks in the house, it’s the one who stole that hour.  It certainly had the opportunity, and since when does your laptop have to have a motive to simply swallow something?  This clock is now a Person Of Interest in the heretofore unexplained disappearance of many other hours.

Still, I made reasonably good use of the other hours of the weekend.  I had a really nice day paddling around Mercer Island in Lake Washington with some folks.  Here’s the GPS story, and here’s a slide show.

And Mrs. Perils and I got out on a walk Saturday, encountering some more interesting and quirky sights in the neighborhood between our place and Fremont. There’s a wooded and overgrown property near the house whose flowering schedule Mrs. Perils has committed to memory, and Saturday she was thinking their fawn lilies might be blooming. Almost, but not quite (Click any pic to enlarge):

Other things are more forthcoming, however. Crocuses and daffodils have been out for a while, and we espied these orchids:

Turning away from an atm machine, the creature on top of this building caught the corner of my eye:

OK, let’s go ahead and make this post an incomprehensible stew of time shards. Thursday, I was downtown for a meeting with a client who was holding court at the Four Seasons hotel. As I exited the elevator on his floor, I snuck this photo looking south on First Avenue. On the left, the 2-story silhouette is a moving sculpture called The Hammering Man, who stands at the entrance of the Seattle Art Museum:

Just across the street from the art museum, however, is the venerable Lusty Lady gentleman’s club. They always have a humorous come-on lettered on their marquee:

I snapped that photo on the way out of my meeting. The message had changed from the time I entered the meeting, and I wish I’d had time to photograph it - the message was “Package Stimulus”.

Update: The flowers above that I misidentified as orchids are actually irises.  Also, there’s a Flickr group devoted to photos of the Lusty Lady marquee, and here’s a picture showing “Package Stimulus” and the other side, which I missed in my haste, titled “Uncovery Plan”.

Bipolar Weekend

Had a sort of bipolar weekend. Saturday was full of vigorous outdoor activity, while Sunday found me lounging in bed reading until 10:30 (Gazelle, by Rikki Ducornet.  She’s the “Rikki” from the old Steely Dan song Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number.  From the jacket photo, I think I’d want her to remember my phone number, too)  Once upright (briefly), I slouched in front of my laptop surfing the net and doing my February billing. I never got out of my sweatpants Sunday, although I did wear them on a short bike ride down to the gym to do a Nautilus workout in the afternoon.

Here’s the view I had Saturday morning while waiting for my ferry ride westward across Puget Sound to kayak with a group near Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula.  The photo on the left is of the Olympic Mountains just as the sun rose above the Cascade Mountains at my back.  The photo on the left is take seconds later, and catches the same quality of rosy-fingered dawn glancing off the masts sequestered by the Elliott Bay Marina. (click photos to enlarge)

I forgot to bring my waterproof camera gear, so I don’t have any photos from the cockpit, but those photos from the ferry dock would have been the best of the day in any case. We launched in pretty good weather:

and, though it clouded up a bit, it never rained, and at this time of year that’s as much as you can hope for on a Saturday afternoon in February. We had a good “mileage” workout, paddling between 11 and 12 miles, against a current in both directions. Here’s the gps report, although my gps seems to have crapped out at the 10-mile point, probably due to user error.

Slush Fun

It warmed up quite a bit last night and today, and most of the accumulated snow has melted.  As of yesterday (Friday) afternoon, however, we were still getting flurries, and Mrs. Perils and I set out for a slushy walk around the ‘hood and down to Fremont to run some errands.

As we were crossing a busy intersection near our house, I espied a cell phone embedded in a pile of slush in the middle of the street.  I opened it up, thinking it was probably toast, but it sprang to life an displayed this (Click any photo to enlarge):

After the initial Pavlovian blanch, I recovered my holiday sense of benevolence and equanimity, and paged through the speed dial list looking for likely contacts who might be able to point me to the owner.  “Padre” and “Madre” were at the top of the list, and I managed to get in touch with the owner’s dad.  They (dad and 14-ish daughter) came by the house after we finished our snow slog and claimed the phone.  We kidded a bit about the OSU-Michigan thing, we’re all adults here, right?

But if it had rung while we were out walking, and started playing The Victors, I’d've chucked it off the Aurora Bridge without a shred of remorse.

Other curiosities encountered in our peregrination - just a few feet from the intersection where I found the phone was this tableau:

Buses have been running erratically, and I guess someone was worried about missing an episode of Days of our Lives.

Then, we stopped into Chocolati to see if they had gotten a shipment of gift certificate cards (I had tried to buy one for Mrs. Perils on Wednesday, but the snow had delayed a delivery of the plastic cards), and I was tickled to see this offering:

Just next door, at the Bottleworks beer boutique, was this sign:

Down in Fremont, the dour and purposeful Comrade Lenin had gotten a partial makeover:

We stopped at Mad Pizza for a bite of lunch before heading back up the hill.  Inside the shop, they were playing Mary Poppins on a flat-screen video with the sound off.  Their sound system instead was playing some sort of driving techno dance mix.  Eerily, the chimney sweeps’ dance number on the screen meshed almost perfectly with the techno beats:

On the walk back up the hill, we met a long-time friend and walked a few blocks with her, catching up on perhaps 5 or 10 years worth of news.  She was wearing Yaktrax Walkers, little grippy matrix things that you slip over your shoes, that would have been very welcome on the several walks in this stuff that we’ve taken.