To Seattle From Chicago

Just another site

Day Seven: Parks and Family June 29, 2010

Filed under: seventh day — playhotpotato @ 6:39 pm

The week-long parade of Seattle activities concluded with visits to some of its extensive parks system, more pub grub and a family dinner.

We began by going to Volunteer Park, home of “Black Sun,” a sculpture by Isamu Noguchi that is rumored to have been the inspiration for the title of Soundgarden’s song “Black Hole Sun.”

"Black Sun" sculpture in Volunteer Park.

A water feature in Volunteer Park.

We climbed the spiral steps of an old water tower to an observation deck to take in the scenery.

Seattle from the observation deck of an old water tower in Volunteer Park.

The Seattle Parks Commissioners hired the Olmsted brothers in 1903 to design a park system. This is a quote from Frederick Law Olmsted posted on the observation deck of the old water tower in Volunteer Park.

Our next stop was an outdoor sculture, “The Troll,” nestled under a bridge along Troll Avenue. There were children running, hopping and howling about, enjoying the novelty and delight of a larger-than-life grim troll under a bridge that you can climb and grab onto.

"The Troll" sculpture. It is crushing a Volkwagen Beetle, two-thirds buried in sand, with its left hand.

After that it was time for some food at Nickerson Saloon and Grill. We shared some chipotle hot wings that were sweet, tangy, spicy, slightly crunchy and moist chicken. David had a big cheese burger, and I opted for fish and chips. Everything was delicious. There was a kickball team seated near us enjoying some beer and recalling the feats of their game.

Hot wings from the Nickerson Saloon and Grill in the Fremont neighborhood, right by the Fremont Bridge.

Our last stop before heading back to David’s house was Bhy Kracke Park, a double entendre that is made even more peculiar by its affluent location. This park afforded us views of the city, the greenery, the housing, the mountains and the sky all from one location.

View of Seattle from Bhy Kracke Park.

We went back to the house, and I was impressed throughout our journey by the steep streets on which Seattleites travel. Going up and down slopes that felt like 45 degrees or more was not unusual.

By the time we returned to the house David’s parents, Bob and Linda, were home. Bob made a wonderful meal of grilled shrimp, asparagus, rice pilaf and steamed artichokes. After dinner we sat around and talked for a while, and then it was off to bed.

It was a Sunday of parks and family, and it was good. In the morning I flew back to my home, Chicago. I learned that good friends remain good friends, no matter what the calendar says. I also learned that getting away for a while is its own task, and well worth the resolve and effort. I am especially grateful to the Husebys for making the getaway possible with their generosity and care. Seattle has style and character, and the Husebys do too.

Copyright 2010


Day Six: Music and Sci-Fi June 27, 2010

Filed under: sixth day — playhotpotato @ 8:28 pm

Seattle Center is the area that includes several theaters and other attractions. There’s an opera house, a ballet theater, the former stadium of the Seattle Supersonics and the Space Needle. There is also the combination museum of the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum, and that’s where we went.

The Space Needle.

The Experience Music Project had a section dedicated to artists from the Pacific Northwest including The Ventures, The Kingsmen, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

One of Kurt Cobain's guitars at the Experience Music Project.

There were also sections focused on guitars, Jimi Hendrix and the Sound Lab, where visitors can try their hands at instruments with some how-to computerized instruction.

Broken and burned Jimi Hendrix guitars at the Experience Music Project.

The Sound Lab at the Experience Music Project, where visitors can play instruments while receiving instructions.

After the Experience Music Project we explored the Science Fiction Museum, which is housed in the same building but is smaller. The Science Fiction Museum included movie costumes and props as well as information about authors and directors in the genre.

Warning! This museum is full of nerds.

When we were done with the dual museum we went to Sam’s Sushi for a fine bite, supportive of a good, local business that had seen better days prior to the Supersonics basketball team’s departure.

Sam's Sushi.

Our next stop was back to David’s house to give Mia the dog some attention and rest a bit before heading out for the evening.

Nighttime festivities included a stop at the J&M Cafe, one of the oldest bars in town that was recently renovated, the New Orleans and The Central. The J&M had a talented cover band called the Justin Kausal Hayes Trio, the New Orleans had a cool blues group called Paul Green & Straight Shot, and The Central Tavern was the host for Nirvana’s first show in 1988.

The Central Tavern stage. Kurt Cobain was here.

It was a fun and interesting Saturday in Seattle, and the activities of museum music, science fiction, sushi and live music were a complementary group.

Copyright 2010


Day Five: University and Music June 26, 2010

Filed under: fifth day — playhotpotato @ 6:10 pm

Our first stop on Friday was the University of Washington campus, David’s alma mater. It is a large school, and they have, among many other things, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

The first exhibit we reviewed was the International Conservation Photography Awards. The ICPA, a conservation photography competition with multiple categories, was started by Seattle-born photographer Art Wolfe in 1997. The images have short explanation cards next to them that provide some context, for example what the photographer had in mind when he or she took the picture.

The International Conservation Photography Awards at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

The rest of the museum contained the types of things you would normally expect in a natural history museum in the Pacific Northwest. Information about local environment, plants, animals, culture and history were all present.

David takes a closer look at an exhibit in the Burke Museum.

Our next stop was the Henry Suzzallo Library, a grand building that epitomizes the strong presence of academics associated with the university. In its cathedral-like reading room I took a short look at “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Cool library and cool book.

Outside the Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington.

Inside the reading room at the Suzzallo Library. Shhh!

Next we took a walking tour of the campus and David showed me several courtyards, a fountain with a customized duck ramp and a series of gardens. Greenery and stone buildings surrounded us.

The economics department building where David spent much time working on his degree.

A well-labeled and healthy garden.


After our university tour we went to Big Time Brewery & Alehouse for a hearty plate of nachos and a couple drinks. Then we went back to David’s house to tend to Mia and get ready to go out for the evening.

Nacho cheese!

Friday night festivities took place in Ballard, a storied part of Seattle known for its Scandinavian heritage and quirky culture. We enjoyed live music at The Tractor Tavern by two bands, Rubblebucket and NOMO. Below is a short video of each.


The last stop for Friday night fun was Snoose Junction Pizzeria for a half “Rockin Meatball” and half “East Village” pie. It was very good, and quite different than Chicago style pizza.

Pizza, pizza.

Education and entertainment came together to make for a solid day of enjoyment.

Copyright 2010


Day Four: Baseball and Music June 25, 2010

Filed under: fourth day — playhotpotato @ 7:02 pm

Thursday started off with a day game between the Cubs and Mariners, the last in the series. Again, excellent seats. We sat next to some friendly people, and on one side two of them were from Australia. One of them was an exchange student, and the other was visiting. The kid was knowledgeable about sports generally, and his favorite player was Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners.

The game went on for 13 innings, with the Cubs finally earning the win 3-2. Below is a video of the final pitch of the final out in the game.

After the game we returned to David’s house and spent some time with his dog, Mia.

Mia the dog in one of her favorite spots, near the front door.

In the evening we went to The Comet Tavern in the Capital Hill area and saw some live music. The three bands we saw were All Time High, Diminished Men and Pink Snowflakes.

Capital Hill area.

The Comet Tavern on Pike Street. Those are dollar bills and other scraps of paper stuck to the ceiling. How do they do that?

Below are videos of All Time High and Diminished Men.

The Comet had an old photo booth that took black and white shots in a sort of back room. This reminded me of the Andy Warhol exhibit we saw the day before because Warhol used the same type of machine to take portraits of himself and others. So I took some shots and I encouraged David to do the same.

Photo booth photos from The Comet. Quality pictures in five minutes.

After the show we went across the street and enjoyed some brick oven pizza, and then we headed home. It was another great day in the Emerald City.

We ate three brick oven pizzas including a margarita and a pepperoni.

Copyright 2010


Day Three: Art and Baseball June 24, 2010

Filed under: third day — playhotpotato @ 7:03 pm

Wednesday got off to a whiz-bang start with a trip to the Seattle Public Library. The modern building was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

Seattle Public Library, an ultra-groovy modern box with books.

We escalated to the 10th floor on bright, lime green escalators and elevators to the Seattle Room, where we found multiple treasures. David found a book inscribed by Supreme Court judge William Douglas and a map that showed his house in 1908.

Seattle Public Library from the inside.

1915 Thomas Street, circa 1908, one year after the house was built.

I found a book titled “Glimpses of Sunshine and Shade in the Far North or My Travels in the Land of the Midnight Sun” by Lulu Alice Craig. Her story is an account of her trip in Alaska’s wilderness preceded by her preparations in Seattle, which is known as the gateway to Alaska.

Of Seattle Craig wrote “It is a very nice little city, and aside from the annoyance and inconvenience of its rains, it has a pleasant, beneficial climate.”

Lulu Alice Craig's book, copyright 1900, is about her trip in Alaska in 1898.

After the library David and I headed over to the Seattle Art Museum, affectionately referred to as SAM. In the lobby of the place white cars with blinking light bars strewn through them hang from the ceiling.

The museum currently had two special exhibits, one on Andy Warhol and another on Kurt Cobain. I was struck by too many things to list here, but several included a sculpture of a human-like figure constructed with green bottles, a giant robe made with 40,000 soldier dog tags, a shiny black drum set cracked, broken and arranged in the Cobain exhibit, and an intriguing portrait of Jesseca Penn, a dancer.

Bottle dude.

Dog tag robe.

A photograph in the Kurt Cobain exhibit.

Jesseca Penn portrait.

When we completed our art museum tour we moved on to Pike Brewery for a bite and a sud. Here we enjoyed a sampler of eight beers as well as a sampler of cured meats, cheeses, topanod and toast. We also enjoyed some artichoke and crab dip with pita slices. Mmm, mmm, good.

Meats and cheeses at Pike Brewery.

Our final destination for the day was game two of the Mariners and Cubs series. The Mariners were victorious, winning 8-1. Unlike Tuesday when we were seated near Cubs fans, we took in Wednesday’s game amongst Mariners fans. Everyone was cordial, however, that’s not to say some well-placed comments for and against the teams weren’t shared.

Cubs 1, Mariners 8, Mariners won.

Toward the end of the game we went to the upper deck to take in the panoramic view of Seattle and its harbor.

The view of Seattle from the upper deck of Safeco Field.

Art and baseball is a good combination for a fantastic Wednesday.

Copyright 2010


Day Two: Fish and Baseball June 23, 2010

Filed under: second day — playhotpotato @ 8:08 pm

The day began with a tour of the Husebys’ backyard garden. This year’s crop includes rosemary, mint, strawberrys, tyme, chives, oregano and tomatoes. We noticed clumps of white foam on some the plants. It looked like foamy spit balls. With a little online research I found out this is caused by an infestation of spittle bugs. The remedy is relatively easy, and the bugs are largely harmless.

We then headed out toward downtown to the world famous Pike Place Market. We devoured Chinese Hom Baos, curry beef flavored. A Hom Bao is a pastry sandwich with the center of a roll filled with oozy goodness.

Curry beef Hom Bao from Seattle's public market.

A short stroll through the market and along the shoreline concluded with our arrival at the Seattle Aquarium.

The Seattle Aquarium sits right on Puget Sound and Elliott Bay. One of the first things that captured our attention was the feeling tank exhibit. There are two large, short, shallow, open-topped aquariums filled with starfish, coral, rocks and other creatures visitors can touch.

The feel tank at the Seattle Aquarium.

It was surprising to touch what I’m going to call a light purple fingery coral thing because when I made the slightest contact with my finger to one of it’s tentacles it sort of latched onto my fingertip with a barb before quickly retracting in less than a second. The first time you do it, it’s a little shock. But it is harmless, and it was really interesting.

They look soft and smooth, but they're not.

Another creature that was captivating visitors in the same large area as the feel tanks was an octopus in a large cylinder tank. The octopus was very active swimming around, spreading out and curling together again.

An octopus has three hearts in its head.

The Seattle Aquarium has an underwater dome submerged in Puget Sound, so we saw Puget Sound fish in their own habitat, including a large sturgeon fish.

Puget Sound fish in the Seattle Aquarium's fish dome. Two fish enter; one fish leave.

We saw salmon in various stages of their life cycles, playful sea otters, one big seal and scores of other aquatic creatures. There was even Meat Coral, which looks like a pile of ground beef.

Fat seal.

Meat Coral, it's what's for dinner.

The Seattle Aquarium, Puget Sound and me.

After the aquarium we went back to the market and indulged in fish and chips at Jack’s Fish Spot. They were spectacular.

Fish and chips from Jack's Fish Spot.

Then we were off to game one of the Mariners and Cubs series. Safeco Field has an industrial looking retractable roof, and train lines run under the roof to the side of the stadium.

Home of the Mariners.

Our seats were behind home plate, and gave us an excellent view of the game. The Cubs lost 2-0 in a fast-paced game. When Milton Bradley of the Mariners went to bat, loud boos throughout the park recalled his trade from Chicago last year, and his ill-received comments about Chicago.

Cubs and Marines, game one.

After the game we scarfed down two sausages a piece. The street vendors offer two-for-one deals after games. Mmmm.

Our final stop of the evening was Elysion Brewery near the stadium. Here we had cask IPA beers. Cask means they are naturally carbonated by hand, and match the way beer was originally produced.

Cask IPA. Not Miller Lite.

For the day we saw fish, we ate fish, and we watched baseball. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday.

Copyright 2010


Day One: The Landing June 22, 2010

Filed under: first day — playhotpotato @ 7:03 pm

On two hours sleep I woke at 5:15 a.m. to begin my journey from Palatine, IL to Seattle, WA. I nabbed a banana, hugged my mom goodbye and hopped into my dad’s car for a ride to O’Hare International Airport for departure.

I scanned in my pre-printed boarding pass at an ATM-like station and began the security check. It took me three tries. The first time through the detector I had to take off my shoes, the second time I had to take off my belt and the third time I had to take my computer out of the bag. Whew! Made it.

After a gentle taxi to the runway the plane pivoted and stopped. Then, all at once, the plane surged forward with the urgency of a drag race car. Loud, muffled air blew outside. Up went the front wheel, the back wheels, and we were airborne. The powerful wind sound was complemented by the foggy, wet weather, and almost like the beginning of a daydream, we drifted up into a cloudy, windy fuzziness.

When I got to Seattle I met an old friend. David Huseby and I have not seen each other for about 20 years. We took a light rail train, then a bus to his house, and were enthusiastically greeted by his two-year-old sprollie dog, Mia.

Mia being patient - very patient.

We took Mia for three walks, during which I was struck by the lush gardens and landscapes throughout David’s neighborhood. Bright flowers of all colors, and more shades of green than I knew existed, composed a bright picture on a mostly dark day.

There are rabbits in that front yard! Backyard agriculture is gaining popularity in Seattle, which is an environmentally conscious city.

After a short grocery trip David and I headed out for the evening. On the way to one of his haunts we saw some more interesting landscapes and buildings.

Here is some type of boat rope tie thing holding up a timber railing, adjacent to an old forklift. Of course! And only in Seattle.

At the Stumbling Monk David introduced me to Belgium beers, and in particular sour ones. We began with a glass of something tart and sweet and flavored by raspberries. Another we enjoyed was flavored by peaches.

David invites me into one of his favorite places, the Stumbling Monk, where, as he puts it, "the beer is fancy but the people aren't."

Conversation was lively at the bar, and we spoke with a rare book dealer and a marine geophysicist.

After the Stumbling Monk we indulged in cheeseburgers at Dick’s Drive-Thru, a local favorite that’s been feeding the late night masses for more than 50 years.

A late night snack was a greasy cheeseburger from Dick's Drive-Thru. Regular condiments included lettuce, American cheese and tartar sauce.

Our final stop was the Hop Vine, where we enjoyed a cream ale and spoke with another patron who explained his PhD project about genetics to us.

I can tell this is going to be a fun and relaxing week.

Copyright 2010