T/Blues: 07/31/2012

August 27, 2012

Go up I-5 amd over WA-11 into Fairhaven. Being right on the water, and benefitting from a warm sunny day, this gives me a perfect trifecta: La Conner, Anacortes, and now Fairhaven.


Sycamore Building – atrium

Slip inside Sycamore Building’s atrium, and wonder why more buildings don’t allow interior space used with such inefficient beauty. Continue through Downtown’s mixture of old and new, and a much impressed that their Village Green has a full-size movie screen on the side of a commercial building. No one seems to know WHEN films are shown, but, certainly a lovely setting.

Walk down past mud flats which support a nature preserve, past an interesting “Transportation Center” (local buses; Greyhound, Amtrak, taxis and island cruises all within walking distance of one another.


Marine Park – a view to live for

Rest for a while in Marine Park… just gazing at the water; listening to the yelp of kids playing on the beach; watching an old white-haired couple walk along this waterfront path, hand-in-hand.


Hard at Work – a traffic stopper

Walking back, notice a store window with a clever use of traffic cones & pause to compliment the owner. She admits there’s another woman who “does” her windows, but suggests “when offered a display of traffic cones in varied positions just ‘floating’ in space, I was hesitant… but a number of people have been kind enough to stop in and tell us they like it”.


Head on up “Nob Hill”. Sacred Heart Catholic Church and some rather fancy homes share an eagle-eye view of the water.

(For more photos, check out “page” 2012/07/31 – Fairhaven/WA)

Out at Larrabee State Park, watch young boys taunt girls unable (unwilling?) to climb face of a large rock outcropping: cultural role-playing? Innate gender differences? Both? Neither?


T/Blues: 07/30/2012

August 17, 2012

Drive over WA-20 to Anacortes. (A troupe of workmen are putting up a huge banner stretching from once side of the street to the other, advertising a Croatian Festival… just for ME?).

Turns out, it’s “Sign-putting-up” Day” as a group of late-teen girls plaster “Arts Festival – No Parking” signs on every lamppost on Commercial Street.


Didn’t “Beaver” live here?

Park  in front of Flounder Bay Arts and their two-home modular home “neighborhood”. As “ads”, these homes look a bit like 1950s, B&W TV show houses, but, are, apparently, quite popular among a “let’s retire to the San Juan Islands” set.



Olson Building: is a ’39 Merc an antique?

Initially, it’s a “Skagit Saloon” mural on Olson Building’s side wall which catches my eye, but, when a 60-ish guy rolls up in a blood-red ’39 Merc coupe, join a crowd of folks prepared to “decode” its innards.

Commercial Street (the main drag) LOOKS to be “touristy”, but, maybe, after La Conner’s narrow First Street, wide sidewalks and six lanes takes away that FEEL. Wander along, delighting at nearly every corner at  some small mural… many of them condensed Anacortes historical “footnotes”.

Go into main post office and am treated to a thirty-minute Marx Brothers routine as staff try  to figure out how to process an international mail postage voucher. In its final “real”, a handful  of employees manage to hit all the right keys, so my thoughts of having to overnight in the PO lobby are dismissed.


Mad Hatter Ice Cream Dispensary

Notice a “depot”-looking building, and find a treasure: an Arts Center (OK, so it’s not the Louvre); a Marine Museum (and an old sternwheeler, the “W T Preston”); but, most deliciously, someone’s back garage converted into a “Mad Hatter” ice cream dispensary. This latter bit of Americana combines old and new: a bunch of little kids on raggety bikes; a mid-20s couple on bikes which cost as much as the garage; and a fawn-coated puppy gazing longingly at an ice cream cone being devoured by an unnoticing Brady Bunch lookalike.

Make a run over to Oak Harbor, but get sidetracked by Deception Pass bridge and state park.

For add’l photos, see “page” 2012/07/30 – Anacortes/WA

T/Blues: 07/29/2012

August 15, 2012

Drive up I-5 through absolutely gorgeous Skagit Valley: needed only Beethoven’s “Pastorale” Symphony to make it perfect.

Pass through Conway and Rexville (both miniscule), and am surprised at design of farmhouses. Lack knowledge about Scandinavian architecture, but can’t help but wonder.

La Conner turns out to be one of those “stickum” towns: am aware of spending a lot of time just moseying around both main and back streets… but, it seems OK!

There are sort of TWO main streets, which intersect into a L-shape. Washington Street has a casual, loose appearance which doesn’t quit prepare me for a more condensed First Street.


First St: from “butcher shop” to “boutique”

In addition to some funky buildings, cute shops, variegated eateries, there’s also a creditable (if tiny) Northwest Art Museum. Right ON the Skagit River, there are several public “open spaces” which allow going out, sittin’ a spell, and jes’ countin’ boats going by.

First St: “hog tide”?

Not like there’s “anything going on” (well, that’s not REALLY true… meet a frail, white-haired lady, cane-hobbling down a steep hill to enjoy a mid-afternoon till dark Blues Festival & Picnic): tourists slip in and out of shops; a “cool dude” in convertible BMW makes a U-turn in the middle of First; bikers roar onto First, then discreetly park their “hogs” before a small bar (N. B., these were very respectful bikers: noisy, yep; obnoxious, nope)

Second St: Butterfly Garden

Wander uphill to an old bank converted to Town Hall; check out an old mansion, now a quilt and tapestry museum; wander into a small “Butterfly Garden” a local Garden Club created next to its once-New-England-Square-church headquarters. On Third, discover some “painted ladies” which owners have lovingly restored.

Back at “sea level”, head for a pier in hopes of capturing a sea plane takeoff. A man my age sits down and inquires about what brings me to La Conner. We converse, and he offers what is, locally, probably a often-told tale.

Grandparent immigrant farmers from Sweden, come and settle in Minnesota; move on to Iowa; and, finally, transport themselves to Washington’s fertile, and open valleys.

Two generation later, he’s a lifetime employee at a local Dutch Shell refinery, an occasional fisherman, and a lonely widower. He speaks to La Conner’s ability to absorb Summer tourists, and to return to a “quiet” town as Autumn begins.

First St: Public Pier (for just plane folks?)

This particular seaplane chose to take of WITH the wind, but do get photos as it returns.

Lunch at La Conner Brewery is nothing special, but, later, wonder whether it’s influenced by a dour, complaining staff.


Commercial St: “Brush Pile” sculpture

One delightful lagniappe is a series of outdoor sculptures… no specific “theme”, but scattered around town in unexpected spots. Some wood, some metal; all have an “independence” of theme which is not limited to local motifs.

NOTE: for some add’l La Conner photos, see “page” 2012/07/29 – La Conner/WA

If you wore a tulip, a bright…

Later, head into Mt Vernon, but again, downtown is pretty much deserted. Never quite get the significance of the “tulip” smokestack, but someone went to a LOT of effort.

Head back to Bay View, just north of La Conner and am treated to an exquisite sunset from the state park there.

Bay View State Park: ending a perfect day

T/Blues: 07/28/2012

August 15, 2012

Boeing: “DreamLifters” – world’s biggest planes

Head up to Everett, to check out Boeing’s “Future of Flight” and factory tour. Great decision vis-à-vis factory tour. Two of four DreamLifters (the ones which can carry a couple large continents in their interior space) are out on the tarmac. At a distance, they look BIG; up close, they look GIGANTIC.

We get to see two different styles of assembly lines: the 747 line is traditional, where parts are put on as a plane rolls down the line; a 787 line brings all the parts to a parked plane and they assemble it in place. This factory is the largest building by volume in the world… which means a Dreamlifter can hold only ONE? (One surprise… wandering through parking lot, checking out license plates [we MUST be ever-vigilant] note one from IL, and a license plate holder indicates a Libertyville dealer. Am unsure WHAT significance there is to me heading for Libertyville, and someone heading out here from there… but, am sure, given sufficient time…)

Head up to Mukilteo’s Diamond Knot Brewery for lunch. (There’s a line of cars MILES long waiting to get on the Whitby Island Ferry. Ask one of the traffic directors how long the wait will be: he grimaces “too long!”.) It’s a very funky old place which looks like it could fall in any moment, but beer is good, salad is great, back-of-the-bar gossip fascinating, and conversation with a young Adonis whose crutches rest between our bar seats surprising.


Mukilteo Lighthouse

His vision is to “close down the federal government except for military defense”. From a retired Marine, maybe this idea might have been expected… but not from someone THIS young.

Wander over to their lighthouse where wiring preparations for an evening concert are under way.


American Legion Park: “Milk Can” sculpture commemorating Centennial

Roll into Arlington late in the day, and it’s virtually deserted. It’s an interesting small town, with some charm, but has a feeling of a film set after filming is complete.

A huge America Legion Park sprawls across a couple blocks, anchored by a small railroad depot (now restrooms) and a gazebo, along abandoned railroad tracks.

T/Blues: 07/21-26/2012

August 15, 2012


Drive into Seattle to spend time with Greta and David and am stunned at construction on Seattle’s south side. (David fills me in later about the scale of changes being made to Seattle’s waterfront, and they are truly “gargantuan”).

Greta and David provide underground parking in their building… does “hosting” get any better? (Later discover, having failed to turn off headlights, a drained battery. A small price to pay.)

David suggests an amble up to Seattle Center where a combination Food and Music Fair are in full sway. Despite size of this crowd, layout and space keep it from becoming oppressive.

Pike’s Market: The Gum Wall

Later, we wander down to Pike’s Market for some fresh veggies. (He introduces me to “The Gum Wall”, just as a youngster is moving gum-to-wall for grandparents to film.)  There are some advantages to living close to “the heart of things”.


Spend most of the day in Seattle’s Art Museum. A very interesting exhibit of Australian Aborigine art will become a part of their permanent collection.

Make a languid return up First St… from Downtown frenzy to Belltown’s quiet.

That evening, a youngish neighbor stops by to chat and offer some “nouveau” (i. e., “organic”) cake. Get a sense Greta & David have become “godparents” for some of their building’s “rootless”.



Olympic Sculpture Park: “Wake” (Richard Serra)

David provides a “Grand Tour” of Seattle’s much updated “Olympic Sculpture Park”, before a longish stroll downtown along the waterfront. He offers a more detailed explanation of what changes will be made. (Although decades in the making, this promises to be transformational.)

Later, wander out along Second Avenue to capture a sense of how neighborhoods change.  In Belltown, there is a charming, uptown hostel, in a reconverted building.


Century Link Building: “Seattle – Aviation” (Mara Smith)

A bit further in, local telecomm provider Century Link features a series of huge, historically symbolic, Mara Smith bas-reliefs incised into the red-brick base of their building.

Downtown, am touched that a War Memorial outside Benaroya Music Hall, acts so well as an “anti-war” memorial.


Pioneer Square: State Hotel (not “signs of the times”)

Pass into Pioneer Park District, and decide 75-cents isn’t a bad price for a room. At UPS Centennial Garden, decide to relax, and “put my feet up”. Put my trousered calves up on the table top, only to have a security guard point out that while THAT is not allowed, putting my dirty shoes on a chair would be OK. Huh?

Decide to walk back along Third, and discover where Seattle’s REAL “Tenderloin” exists. This area itself doesn’t look so bad… sadly, its inhabitants do. Further up, Downtown, Third turns toney, and by Belltown, it’s become a curious mix of office buildings, small businesses and “Nouveau Moderne” condos.

That evening we head down to El Gaucho, a 1940’s style bar and restaurant. They’ve developed an acquaintance with Brook, who’s planning an entrepreneurial effort with friends to create a physical fitness “boot camp” (my muscles ache just from hearing about it).



Olympic Sculpture Park: “Tree” (?)

Do an intensive photo-walk through Olympic Sculpture Garden. Tho there’s much to see, its space prevents any sense of crampedness.

Continue down to First Hill and climb up to Frye Museum.  A modest, private museum, it offers an interesting combination: early 20C German paintings balanced with American Impressions from the same era. Two art classes: one, buoyant middle-schooler; the other, college-level, treat these works with different seriousness.

“Just around the corner”, Cathedral of St James anchors First Hill’s tree-lined streets, well-tended homes, and discreet businesses.

Run across Seattle’s Blood Bank, and they agree to “vampire” me (missed my SF schedule). A Chinese tech of about my grandson’s age describes how an Idaho church group managed to move his family from “Red China”. He doesn’t quite understand his parents veneration of Chairman Mao, as his knowledge of China’s World War II and “Cold War” eras is sketchy.

Freeway Park: Fountains

Use Freeway Park’s soothing fountains on my downhill trek, only to find myself at Convention Center’s Ellis Plaza. It is full of smoking, cellphoning computer nerds (ask a couple in our elevator what they did before cellphones and get a “was the a world before cellphones?” look), and am disappointed that an industry which offered women opportunities seems to have reversed that option.

As Seattle’s month-long SeaFair Festival is on the horizon, Greta suggests we head up to Belltown Pub and meet some faux-pirates. Conversationally, they are quite interesting: some 60 volunteers overall, small groups do over 250 charity appearances each year. They pay for their own costumes and gear, and most are employed at less daring occupations. (One, whose accent is noticeable, actually was raised in Barbados).


Breakfast at The Daily Linen, as NorthWest Flapjacks sounds interesting. Emerge about 20 pounds heavier.


University of WA: Fountain & campus buildings

Take a bus out to University of Washington, which, with a smaller Summer Session population proves perfect. (Tho, as a businessman, AM surprised that food carts surrounding the Plaza take no cash: credit cards or “Student Cards” only. Thus a $1 Coke purchase generates a credit card transaction).

Am nonplussed by Henry Art Museum (except for a mirror video of French film star Isabelle Huppert… tho, admittedly, you can only watch her turn, and turn back so many times). Alternately, am richly reward at Burke Natural History Museum by award winning nature photos exhibit. (One, specifically, brought me up short: a Winter Solstice sunset gilds a seaside cave in a state park just south of Carmel/CA. Either this is the LUCKIEST photographer ever, or the most persistent).


Walk up to Queen Anne District to breakfast at Le Toulose Petit with “Tracie-from-Seattle” (for those of you who remember Seaside/OR posts). As “stimulus” for my plans to travel through North Cascades National Park and WA’s dense forest/mountain scenery, she added more (then too, there was her mantra “Winthrop”). Our conversation turned personal: history, family, plans, etc. As might be suspected, we also touched on politics.

She guides me up to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation campus (which reminds me a bit of New York City’s United Nations complex). In going through their wonderful museum, discover a “bug” (a spelling error in the sense of having chosen the wrong word) in one of their displays. In evidence to their Microsoft ancestry, they remain unconvinced until shown. (In fairness, then, they are most appreciative… tho free copies of Windows 9 are not offered).


Seattle Center: Chihuly Art Museum

Wander through a much less crowded Seattle Center. It’s a bit TOO busy for my tastes, but they have done a magnificent job.

David accompanies me downtown and introduces me to a “homeless hotel” The Josephinium (?). Its exquisite lobby and beautifully restored chapel are, again, great reminders that we can offer “dignity” to those “down-and-out” members of our society.

Stop for a beer at Jameson Bar. Bartender Danielle is not having a good day: refrigeration unit is on the blink (thus no draft Harp), cash register is stuck closed. (And you thought YOU were having a bad day?)

T/Blues: 07/19/2012

August 11, 2012

Just outside Shelton/WA, in Potlatch State Park discover myself a couple weeks too early for their annual “clambake”. Apparently, this entire state park becomes a seafood festival site. Fortunately, it’s got only a few campsites full, and morning is spent in “administrative duties” at the Day Use area across the highway with its rich view of a lovely bay.


Historical Museum “Number 13 Coming Across the Wynoochee” mural

Shelton’s Historical Museum contains all the required artifacts (and, one supposes, all “artiFANCIES”) necessary to preserve continuity. Around town are other murals which also delight.


Clock Tower

A stroll manages to find some photo ops; do love their clock tower and RR engine.

Old Railroad locomotive

Manage, with all of this, to lose my van. Am lucky, it’s a small town, so threading through streets, cursing my stupidity for not taking bearings, is quickly rewarded.

T/Blues: 07/18/2012

August 11, 2012

Forest Road #25: a creek

More meandering… out past area leading toward Mt St Helens, and onward and upward toward Mt Rainier. Near Cougar/WA, find an old Forest Road (#25) in Gifford Pinchot National Forest (anybody remember whom Mr. Pinchot was? eh, any of you Sierra Club members?) with a horrible roadbed, but it rambles on past creeks, streams, river, falls, uphill and down, curved and straight, by ugly, brutish clear-cuts, and


Iron Creek Falls: go with the flow…

gorgeous stands of timber which occasionally canopy the road. (It’s one of those roads where trying to describe it is impossible: what’s needed is a video camera mounted on the van roof which simply transmits images into “The Cloud”)


Alte Kirche: a “Lutheran” church since 1906

At Elbe, the middle-aged woman who acts as sexton/docent discusses cameras, scanners, etc. with a professional’s acumen. There’s a minor irony as affluent SUVs fill a parking lot to dine in a Mt Rainier RR caboose, and muffler-impaired pick-up trucks pause for a six-pack at an IOOF building turned general store.

NOTE there are no add’l photos for this date.