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?)