Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ode to Local Neighborhood Markets

Volunteer Park Cafe

If you are like me, and enjoy soaking up the sun with a cold beer and perhaps a cold tomato sandwich - then do I have the place for you.

The Volunteer Park Cafe is so perfect it has me daydreaming of quiting my job and turning my local convenience store into a local market in its image. Located two blocks east of Volunteer Park in Capital Hill in a rambling yellow building- this little store/cafe is a neighborhood hang out that is soon to be a community secret no more thanks to recent glowing reviews in the Seattlepi and Stranger.

Founded by two local Carmelita chefs -this market is a little less of a store than I would have liked but I soon forgave the mis-marketing once I took a bite of one of their chocolate ginger cookies. The only items for sale are beer and wine located on the shelves and back coolers of the store. The rest of the space is dedicated to seating - it actually resembles the inside of Essential Bakery in Fremont. Same use of space with serve-yourself filtered water and bus-your-own table service. The windows slide open to the outside sidewalk, providing neighbors the chance to visit with people passing by. Patio chairs and tables balance precariously on the sloping walk outside the front door - but if you are lucky you can snag the one table nestled in the flower boxes and shaded by the sun.

The menu is a mix of dressed up standard sandwiches and breakfast specials - like bananas foster brioche french toast and roasted tomato and mozzarella sandwiches. The salads are topped with, really, the most delicious light citrus salad dressing I have ever had. And as I mentioned earlier - the cookies, pastries, and quiche are fabulous.

This place is perfect for a quiet Sunday breakfast, an afternoon bite to enjoy with a book, or as a place to enjoy a bottle of wine on a sunny evening.

They Gave so much, and Now they are Taking it Away

Olympic Athletic Club - Ballard

Olympic Athletic Club stickers on the back windshield of cars are so ubiquitous in this city - you'd think that everyone was a member. Any why not be?- when the cost of gym membership comes with the added bonus of 24-hour parking lots in the heart of downtown Ballard. I've been know to park overnight after one too many beers at a Conor Byrnes Trivia Night - and it comes in handy on Friday and Saturday nights when cruising for a parking spot can turn into the nights activity.

The Olympic Athletic Club might just be the perfect gym in Seattle - Sound, Mind, and Body in Fremont might have an idyllic location - but the actual gym and the attitude of the staff leave much to be desired. The chains are all located in the burbs. Then there is the UW IMA which is an impressive gym complete with smoothie bar, olympic pool, and climbing wall. But then there is the little thing about having to be a member of the University.

Needless to say, until the past two weeks I have been a fan of the Olympic Club gym. No longer. Apparently, the gym is being turned into a 4-star hotel - with construction to begin this fall. How do I know this? Was there a news release to gym members perhaps? Or maybe an informational display at the gym? No and no. There has been no sign that construction is to begin in a mater of months- but the SeattleTimes and PI have been feeding information about this new mega hotel for the past month. When I asked the front desk about the reports, I was met with attitude "The gym isn't going to be turned into a hotel, it is going to incorporate a hotel"- and then was told construction will begin in 3 months. Well, great, but what does that mean for me as a member? How will my membership and time and the gym be disturbed? The fact that the staff has been so secretive only serves to heighten my apprehension regarding this transformation.

So what does this mean for me? It means that I am now shopping, once again, for a new gym.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Search for Pier 91

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am an ideas person- who perhaps falls short on follow-through. That being said, I was particulary ambitious when I sent a call out over email recently for volunteers to join me in a 4 month Seattle Works team.

Seattle Works is a local organization that offers one-time volunteer events targeted at 20-30 somethings. It's an easy way to get involved and it also offers the added bonus of meeting new people (I get the feeling most people join teams when they are new to the city- I've been here for 5 years, so that's pushing it). The team program places volunteers on teams of 15 - and the teams participate in one volunteer event a month for 4 months.

Tai was kind enough to not only indulge me by joining Seattle Works with me- but to also text me to make sure I was awake this past Saturday for our first volunteer event (8:45am!) and bring me a medium latte (thanks again Tai!). Apparently, Tai and I are on the team - the reason being that our team leader is an Amazon employee. However, we also have a couple of individuals from a local church group, the Gates Foundation, and some other people whom I haven't quite figured out yet.

So - we showed up diligently at Northwest Harvest at 8:45 this past Saturday - which is located on Pier 91 near the Magnolia Bridge. For those of you not familiar with this Pier - there are a lot of organizations located here, and also quite a few different enterances (one of my many reaons for being late). We sorted apples for about 4 hours - followed by a couple of bloody marys and beer at some place on lower Queen Anne. Not a bad way to spend a morning - do some good and have a drink.

Little bits of Greatness

Sometimes it's the small things that can make you the happiest.

Last night Graeme and I rambled down to Maia and Scott's house for a late dinner. Scott had foraged for morels this past weekend and he cooked up a fantastic dinner of chorizo stuffed morels with braised chard. It wasn't just the food that made the evening so enjoyable though, it was the small nice-ity of walking through your neighborhood at dusk after a sunny day to enjoy a bottle of wine with friends.

I've been chalking up small points of happiness lately - enough that they over-power my work malaise and general dis-satisfaction with my career choices.

Like when I logged into iTunes yesterday to make an iMix for Graeme's mother and realized that Van Morrison finally released my favorite album onto iTunes (Astral Weeks in case your curious).

Or getting the chance to catch up with old friends on a recent night and play your favorite silly party game (celebrity).

Or even getting a glimpse of a ferry going out to the sound (from between your neighbor's cubicle wall and their monitor), backed by a clear view of the Olympics (god-damn we live in a beautiful city).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Great day for Solstice and Testicle Toss

For Christmas this past year, my soon to be brother-in-law Nathan was kind enought to put together a testicle toss set for Graeme (some of you may know the game by its marketed name Blongo- however, my family refuses to awknowledge the existence of said Blongo).
Basically, the game is a couple of peices of PVC pipe slapped together that stands approx shoulder level. Teams then throw golf balls, teathered together by rope, at the rungs of PVC pipe and win points for their team based on the level of rung. It is a surprisingly entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, and paired with beer and sun, can be quite addictive.
Although we have had the set for almost six months, this was the first day that we had actually assembled the set in our yard. We hurridly put it together in the morning before heading down to Fremont for the annual Solstice Parade. The parade is Graeme and I's favorite event in Seattle- a spectacle of wierd lefty politcal statements, kid-friendly activities, and public nakedness. Its basically a local neighborhood parade where all are welcome that turned into a city-wide spectacle. It's fantastic.
The neighborhood was already packed with cars trolling for parking and kids hawking lemonde and homemade cookies when we took of for Fremont at 11:30am with a couple of beers. We arrived just in time for the naked biker ride, of which the throng of "Where's Waldo" characters was my personal favorite- although I do think that Graeme's idea of painting oneself as a police cyclist and then following a line of them around would have been brilliant.
We staked a claim of land right outside Tacos Gyamas, which proved to be a perfect spot. Apparently the balcony of spectators encouraged parade participants to put on a show and the restuarant afforded up the opportunity for additional beers. The crowd of 20-somethings in front of us had also arrived in costume and were an entertaining group- inspiring Graeme to muse out-loud more than once that he had decided to dress up as a chicken for the parade (the most ammusing costume in the bunch).
After the parade it was back to the house to put more beers on ice, grill up some hotdogs, and break in the testicle toss. Maia and Scott proved to be fierce competitors, as did some of the other friends who stopped by on their way back from the parade or on their way to another party. The game stayed out and was in use throughout the evening, despite breaks of rain, and was only put to rest when it was too dark to play anylonger.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


The Beastie Boys are playing the Crocodile on Friday night.

According to all accounts, tickets sold out in about 10 seconds. This is the second time I've missed one of these shows at the Crocodile. I was three places away from getting tickets to the Strokes show last year.

The show has set of pandamonium in Seattle, as about 4 generations of music fans are pining to get in. I am now left consoling myself by reading what people are willing to offer on craigslist in exchange for Beasties tickets. One dude is using his companion ticket as leverage for a blind date, complete with requests that applicants send a photo. Another guy is offering his motorcycle. If you have a spare minute and need to feel good about your limits, follow the link.

Seriously. Before you sell your last scrap of dignity to go to this, consider plopping out 50 bucks and the cost of a tank of gas to drive out to the Gorge and see them play Sasquatch. Sure, it's a giant venue without the intamcy, but you might actually see a few other bands you might like. You'll have one fewer thing to atone for in your next life.

Enjoy the weekend whatever you decide brave craigslister.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Jehovah’s Witness Reveal New Seattle Strategy.

A while ago my Jetta got fed up with my forgetfulness and decided it would no longer make a pinging sound if I left the parking lights on. Now every so often I walk out to start a trip only to discover my battery is dead. This happened about twenty minutes before my IMA playoff soccer game at the UW last night.

I got going early this morning to jump-start my car before Erin left for work. While my engine charged the battery I decided to clean out my car. I was in the middle of sorting the contents of my trunk into three piles on my driveway when a middle aged couple approached me from across the street. They appeared to be dressed in circa 1982 Easter clothing. The man was wearing pleated khaki pants, a metallic blue shirt, brown tweed jacket and a stunningly bright gold and blue tie. The woman was dressed in an incredibly conservative American gothic blue dress, complete with a Victorian neck line covering half her neck and ruffled sleeves extended halfway down her biceps. I was pretty sure whatever conversation we were about to have was going to be extremely awkward.

The man greeted me cheerfully. “Are you going on a trip?” I looked around at the piles of stuff on the driveway that I had intended to bring into the house, and realized that I had my getaway excuse quite literally laid out.

“Well that’s nice,” he said. “It’s is a beautiful day.” I nodded. His partner bent under the hideous green shrub by my driveway nodded. I had accidentally engaged in the ritual of mutual observation and agreement, and was now committed to as short a conversation as possible.

With the pleasantries out of the way, the man cut to the chase. “We’re walking around the neighborhood and talking to people about global warming today. Do you believe global warming is a problem?”

Fuck. I had totally misread these people. Not religious zealots, but environmental zealots. Even more embarrassing to be caught standing in my driveway sorting piles of athletic equipment while my car engine had been running for so long that a pool of condensation had collected below the exhaust pipe. I went to cut off the engine, risking a dead battery in order to save a little face in front of the Mayberry chapter of Greenpeace. I acknowledged that global warming was a problem.

He pressed forward. “Do you think global warming can be fixed?” I was puzzled now. I wanted out of the conversation, but I didn’t know which answer would free me fastest. Were they conservatives advocating carbon trading? Salesmen peddling energy efficient light bulbs?

I answered in the affirmative. This is, in fact, a small misrepresentation of what I believe. I’m not convinced global warming can be fixed, but I think public policy should address carbon emissions and energy use. Besides, I was fairly confident I could rattle off a few of the every-day practical suggestions from the ending credits of an Inconvenient Truth to defend the position

“That’s good.” He said. “I’m a minister, and I’d like to leave you with some literature about our solution to global warming.”

My mood brightened instantly. I have been extremely curious about the alignment of left wing politics and religion taking shape in the fundamentalist environmental movement. Now I had the advanced guard standing in front of me offering a collection of biblical passages supporting environmentalism. For the first time in my life I happily took the readings.

I was sorely disappointed when I was handed a flimsy pamphlet with the instantly recognizable color pencil art of the Jehovah’s Witness on the front. The pamphlet was adorned with an extremely curious interpretation of an autumn paradise—An African American couple sitting in a meadow of the American frontier surrounded by apples, pumpkins and moose.

I soon learned that Gore’s practical approach to global climate change was going to fall far far short of the ultimate solution. From the passage Suffering is Near Its End. “So Jehovah’s tolerance of wickedness and suffering is nearing its end. Soon God will intervene in human affairs by destroying this entire unsatisfactory system of things” (Watchtower 2005, 5).

I started repacking the trunk with my bags of recycling, trash, and tennis equipment. “Sorry, but I’ve gotta get going on that trip…”

To my amazement the couple seemed entirely happy to let me go. As they walked down the street towards my neighbor’s house they were followed by two unbelievably strange looking adolescents dressed like Malachai from the Children of the Corn. I have no idea where these children had been lurking, but it freaked me out. To my relief, my car started up immediately and I was left to collect my thoughts as I drove aimlessly around the neighborhood.

This is a brilliant campaign move for the Jehovah’s Witness in Seattle. When I lived in Baton Rouge, the conversation would start with some question about whether or not I believed Christ would deliver us from sin. But that line won’t fly in Seattle. Here our common cultural value is environmental. Like all good organizations the Witnesses have adapted. Beware all you the earnest greens working in the yard today. The conversation you are about to have about carbon emissions is going to lead to the same uncomfortable discussion about your eternal salvation. Knowing is half the battle..

A moment of reflection on this exchange has raised a number of interesting questions. I wonder if the Jehovah’s Witness view global warming as an indicator of the approaching last days. If so, I am now doubly committed to taking the bus and replacing my incandescent light bulbs. This will not only work to preserve the polar ice caps, but also delay the day that something comes to collect my eternal soul.

More importantly, I think I can add their concern for global warming as ammunition for conversations with those who continue to insist that global climate change is neither occurring nor caused by man. In the past, I have remarked that prominent Republicans and leaders of industry have come to accept that the global warming a problem. I have pointed out that insurance company actuaries have been forced to revise the risk of flooding based on projections of global climate change. Now that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have gotten on board, I think the case is closed.