As you may have already read I am often to be found walking the streets of Seattle. I am finding that it is the kind of city which wears its heart on its sleeve. Whether those streets are filled with around 700,000 Seahawks fans celebrating the winning of the Super Bowl (had to slip that in!) or more quiet expressions of the city’s cultural life, there is always something interesting to come across.
A frequently spotted sight has been ‘Little Free Libraries.’ I had never heard of these before being in Seattle, but when flying here at Christmas there was an article about them in the KLM flight magazine. So I realised it was a movement not just a Seattle ‘quirk’. It turns out they exist in many countries. Todd Bol in Wisconsin built one in 2009, as a tribute to his school teacher and book loving mother and from there has inspired a global community. People passing are encouraged to take, read and replace a book (either the same one or another) in an open hearted desire to keep books flowing and being enjoyed. Continue reading
Opening night at The Seattle, later The Paramount, 1928
photo credit here
I have much to learn about the history of Seattle and habitation of the area prior to the arrival of pioneer settlers in 1851, but one thing is that evident just walking around the city is that for the wealthy in the early 1900s it must have been an exciting place to be. Unaware of the depression that would hit in the 1930s, and boyant with the exuberance of hosting the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition international fair it was a time of enormous city development. Although Seattle was already building a reputation for radicalism, as the ship builders started off what turned in to a general strike in 1919, the longest such strike in American history. What a great time architecturally for a city to be growing up. Whilst too many of the beautiful art deco buildings are well gone it is still completely evident as you walk the streets and see both commercial and residential buildings of the time that this was a boom period in Seattle – which interestingly has a history of booms and busts. Continue reading
Lake Washington from Log Boom Park
It sets itself up as a dewy eyed thing, damp and dismal with long grey periods. But whilst chunks of the USA seem to be ‘freezing their butts off’ the PNW (Pacific North West) is having an exceptionally mild and dry winter. It excelled itself last week by including four consecutive days of back to back sunshine and glorious blue skies – topping it off with wonderful sunsets. I’m regularly hearing “it is not usually like this” “don’t expect this every year” “this is the best winter since I moved here” so have been making the most of it. The house hasn’t been cleaned – but I’ve been to new parts of the city and revelled in glorious views.
One of many of the stairways which link homes, trails and parks across the city
I occasionally scan an ex-pat discussion forum, as it was really helpful when searching for immigration processing timescales and paperwork questions. People also talk about what they are missing from the UK – low walkability is a regular complaint. Well, much as with many other of their apparent losses, all we think is – move to Seattle! There are cars queuing on the freeway, but also miles and miles of waterside trails, copious green spaces and some delightful parks. Urban stairways ease access up and down the steep hills across the city. You never feel a lone walker here.
Library – Central Branch
In fairness the singing was led by Robert McClung Community Programmes Manager for Seattle Opera and was with around another fifty people. Not that Seattle Central Library is really one of those ‘shhh’ libraries anyway. When I worked as Arts Policy Officer at North Yorkshire County Council the Libraries and Arts Department ran a great ‘No shhh-ing at this library’ campaign (it was in the days, really not so long ago, when there was money being spent on promoting libraries – given the horrific cuts English libraries have been facing more recently, this work and its accompanying refit programme seem hard to imagine). I have had a thirst for encouraging some noise ever since…
Seattle Central Library is a one of those magnificent public buildings we can rejoice in. When I first visited Seattle two years ago my way to stay for a longer period was to bring some work with me. People kept telling me, that rather than using the small flat we were renting as an office space, to go to the Library. I thought this a boring option until I got there – what an inspiring place. It opened in 2004, and was primarily designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Ramus of architecture firm OMA. The strongest memory of my first vist was the giggle of children enjoying a secret corridor with its shiny red and padded walls. It seemed magical to them – and to me. As well as excited people there are nearly 1.5 million books and artefacts and 400 public access computers around the place.
It wasn’t my plan to write about this next, but it feels like I can’t let the weekend be too far gone before mentioning the event that got the city very excited. Although it turns out Part 2 is happening next Sunday – so I guess I could have waited after all.
Projected on to the Hammering Man outside Seattle Art Museum
No 12 flags have been going up everywhere – cultural institutions, corporations, businesses and well just about everywhere. And 2 for 1 or other discounts are on offer for the 12th man all over. The news reports have been full of the vital role of the 12th Man. It clearly had to do with Seahawks, Seattle’s NFL ‘American’ football team (they miss out the ‘American’ here – there is football and soccer, what is to confuse?) and their journey towards the Super Bowl but…??? So ‘what is the 12th Man thing?’ would seem a reasonable question wouldn’t it – not something to be scoffed at for asking the husband or anything, right? Hmmm. Okay – so it turns out everyone knows what the 12th Man is (err?) – it is the crowd, obviously. In football you only have a maximum of 11 people on the field at any one time – you knew that didn’t you?
Seattle Art Gallery exhibiting Kehinde Wiley’s Anthony of Padua painted in 2013 within their Gallery of European Art – “not a universally popular decision”
As someone brought up Catholic First Fridays have a very specific memory – walking from school to Church in the hope that, with the achievement of 9 consecutive months of devotions, the grace of final repentance would be secured and there was no fear of dying without God’s blessing. Strangely though I have no idea if I ever achieved this, it seems unlikely as with school holidays there was no way that we would make all 9 in one go – and I don’t think my Mum ever ensured that the missing Fridays were dutifully covered. However in Seattle First Fridays can be associated in a different way altogether. Seattle Art Museum (SAM) hold their monthly lecture series on that very sequence. It runs from October to June, so there is just chance to make the glory of 9 successive visits, but I am starting in January – so doomed again.
A book store JUST for cook books
Not just knives I hasten to add, but pans, measuring cups and all sorts other kitchen items too. I’m reading Consider the Fork – A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson. It isn’t a book I had been aware of, despite being published in 2012, but it is the selection for this month’s reading group at Book Larder. Having access to book store with a good selection of cookery books is brilliant – having access to a book store which only sells cook books – now, that is heaven. And then finding out it runs all sorts of workshops and discussions, well count me in!