Local Art News
Liz Dunn is the woman behind many successful real estate rehab projects on Capitol Hill, including Melrose Market and the Piston & Ring building. She’s the founder and managing partner of Dunn & Hobbes LLC, an award-winning firm known for furthering urban sustainability. Chophouse Row, Dunn’s latest project on Capitol Hill, is due to open on March 1st.
What books are lying open on your nightstand right now?
The Relationship Cure by John Gottman. I bought a copy for a (now ex-) boyfriend and decided that it was only fair that I read it myself too. I’m pretty sure he’s NOT reading it, but I’m actually getting a lot out of it.
The Back of The Turtle by Thomas King. Every year my brother picks a couple of books from the Canadian best-seller list, so he’s doing a great job of keeping me up to date on my Canadian literature.
I’m also working my way through Ian McEwan’s backlist. Technically speaking, they’re sitting in my Kindle list, not on my nightstand.
Have you read a truly great book lately? One you’d unhesitatingly recommend to friends and colleagues?
I just finished Us by David Nicholls. It was pretty great. And last summer, while I was in Nova Scotia, I read Island, which is a collection of amazing short stories by Alistair MacLeod.
Any hands-down favorite authors?
Alice Monroe, Margaret Atwood – that’s the Canadian coming out – I’ve read pretty much everything they’re written. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Antione St. Exupery. Albert Camus – although a little bleak …
Do you read more fiction or non-fiction? Any favorite genres?
Fiction, when I have time, to counterbalance the spreadsheets and emails that I stare at all day. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and it sometimes makes me sad that reading for pleasure is a luxury I’ve barely had time for since college. But I’ve been doing much better the last few years.
When I’m getting ready to go on a trip, I read historical fiction that takes place in my destination. So, for example, in Barcelona last year I read The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. On the other hand, I tried to read Mario Vargas Llosa in Peru and just found it too dense.
My mom is kind of an anglophile and both my parents read a lot of history and biographies and historical fiction, so as a kid I read a ton of Henry the 8th and Elizabethan stuff, and more recently Hillary Mantel. Tolstoy when I was a kid; not sure I could persevere now.
There’s a series that is very famous in the French-speaking world called Les Rois Maudits that is epic and amazing, but impossible to find an English translation – takes place in the 13th – 15th centuries – complete with Medicis and Knights Templar, and all kinds of torture, corruption, adultery, etc. A boyfriend’s mom introduced me to it when I was living in Paris.
I try to still read books in French when I can, but I’m gradually losing it….
I look at A LOT of design publications (eye candy) when I’m working on project.
Favorite eye candy?
Which authors/books have influenced your interest in urban planning and design?
Jane Jacobs, hands down. William Whyte, Kevin Lynch, Richard Sennet, Roberta Gratz, Sharon Zukin, Seattle’s own Anne Vernez Moudon. People doing interesting research-y things now that I think will have continuing influence: Richard Florida (he’s come a long way since “The Creative Class”), Bruce Katz, Bill Hillier, Peter Bosselman, Nan Ellin. And The Endless City: The Urban Age Project, with amazing graphics/statistics on global megacities from the London School of Economics.
Is there a book or two about urban issues/architecture and/or city planning that you wish every Seattleite would read?
The High Cost of Free Parking, Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Geography of Nowhere, Great Streets. Each one of these books is a true classic, dealing with a fundamental aspect of ‘city-making’ in a way that has completely changed peoples’ perspectives and has to some degree contributed to the ongoing renaissance of North American cities.
Everyone who cares about cities should read the online journal Atlantic Cities. I’ll also put in a shameless plug for the Preservation Green Lab’s “Older, Smaller, Better” report, which came about partly as the result of my masters’ thesis, “The Granular City.”
What projects are you working on right now?
We’re finishing up Chophouse Row on 11th Avenue, in the heart of the Pike-Pine neighborhood. It’s going to be great when it’s done — and we have some amazing tenants lined up for our retail marketplace — but construction has been a tough slog. We’re attaching a new steel and concrete loft office building to a historic auto row building, which is challenging….
Can you think of a particularly powerful passage from a book that’s stuck with you?
Hmmm. Just about every page of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book would fit that bill. Alice Monroe has that same kind of effect, but her style is a lot leaner. The first and last few pages of L’Etranger, by Albert Camus are pretty unbelievable.
What do you read to stay current on what’s happening in Seattle and the region?
I am devoted to Metropolis. Locally I think both ARCADE and Gray Magazine do a terrific job. Online: I try to read Planetizen.com and Atlantic Cities every day. Crosscut, The Stranger, Geekwire, PSBJ, DJC.
Any well-reviewed or popular books lately that you felt didn’t live up to the hype?
I read Dave Eggers’ A Hologram for The King because I have a friend who is literally working on the King Abdullah Economic City project in Saudi Arabia, where it takes place, and I thought it would be fun/funny to read the fictional account.
It definitely captured the incredible irony of the place, but it ended on a strange, flat note. I guess that’s kind of a Dave Eggers deal.
What were your most cherished childhood books? Can you name a childhood favorite or two that influenced you or that you particularly loved?
This is going to make me sound incredibly nerdy, but I was into a lot of science fiction and fantasy. I read everything by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Roald Dahl, Ursula Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, etc.. Nevil Shute.
I also read a whole bunch of stuff as a kid that was WAY over my head at the time, like John Updike, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Gore Vidal, Saul Bellow and Ernest Hemmingway, because it was on my parents’ bookshelves. I’m not sure they even know that I read all that stuff. I can’t pretend that I got through it all, some of it was pretty dense stuff.
Do you have a book or two that you’ve re-read over the years and will no doubt turn to again?
I find anything by Alice Monroe very re-readable because it’s so timeless. I just reread Amsterdam, by Ian McEwan. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. I am absolutely going to go back and read Gabriel Garcia Marquez in honor of his passing – Hundred Years of Solitude and Life in the Time of Cholera. I probably reread “The Lord of the Rings” every summer from the time I was 11 until I was 18.
What do you plan to read next?
I just booked a trip to Tulum, Mexico, so I think I need to dig up some stories that take place in the Mayan ruins…. Maybe your readers have some recommendations?”
What Val’s Reading This Week: Watch Me, the second half of Anjelica Huston’s autobiography. It’s name-dropping at its best as Huston comes into her own as an actress, continues to work with her director/father John Huston, and begins and ends her wild ride of a 17-year relationship with Jack Nicholson.
The post Book City: Developer Liz Dunn’s reading for excellent cities appeared first on Crosscut.
Every year, I collect some of the worst failures in heritage and historic preservation on the Pacific Northwest. This edition focuses on some disturbing trends like rampant demolitions throughout the Northwest, a lack of enforcement of preservation rules, control-freak feds seeking to restrict media access to public lands, and losing yet another maritime icon with a collective shrug. OK, enough intro: It’s Turkey time.
The wreck of the Kalakala
It’s been apparent for years that the 1930s streamlined ferryboat Kalakala — once a Puget Sound maritime icon — was in deep trouble. Its various well-intended saviors could find neither the money nor the patrons to find it a home or a purpose, though many ideas were floated in many ports, from Lake Union to Neah Bay, Port Angeles to Tacoma. Some saw a future maritime museum, others a dinner theater or a conference center. Each iteration to save the vessel seemed to become fraught with confusion, alienation, incompetence and debt, despite the sometimes-heroic efforts to keep her afloat. High cost, unrealistic expectations and creeping deterioration all played a role in her demise.
Historian Alan Stein of HistoryLink, who once worked to save the Kalakala, believes she was akin to the Ring of Power in “Lord of the Rings” — she seemed to suck the life out of all who possessed her. The saga of the Silver Slug, however, has now ended with the Kalakala being hauled to the scrap yard and cut to pieces. The wrecker is selling off bits and the helm will be preserved at Salty’s on Alki, but she will no longer be a navigational hazard in Tacoma, nor a victory for maritime preservationists who imagined her as a sleek dream jazzing up some local waterfront. The blame is collective: In a region that prides itself on imagination and innovation we could not come up with a creative solution to save a vessel whose design reflects that self-image.
Seattle’s deep-bore tunnel machine Bertha broke down in 2013 and is still under repair. The repair work itself has had an impact on the city’s premier historic district. The digging of a rescue pit to access the broken-down machine, stuck under Pioneer Square between Jackson and Main streets, has lowered the water table, causing local structures to sink, potentially endangering buildings and possibly damaging basic city infrastructure such as sewer lines. Also of concern: Many of the Pioneer Square buildings are built on old wooden pilings preserved, in part, by being buried in the moist soil. Draining water away can make them prone to rot and insect infestations, problems that have occurred in other historic districts built on wet, mucky, unstable soils when water has drained away (see Boston, Milwaukee and Coos Bay). In short, the flaws in Bertha’s manufacture, unanticipated soil conditions and/or the way the machine has been deployed have posed a significant risk to historic properties and the potential for more collateral damage along the way.
Wilderness control freaks
This last year saw some strange behavior on the part of public stewards to public access to public lands. The Kitsap Sun’s Tristan Baurick, for example, was covering the moving of the historic Enchanted Valley chalet in Olympic National Park. The intrepid reporter hiked in 13 miles in to witness the process, but once there — the only reporter to make the trek — he was stonewalled by the park service’s representative. Despite Baurick’s being invited to cover the move, the representative wouldn’t allow him to interview workers involved in the process or to get close to photograph the chalet. Baurick had to do stealth interviews with the work crew before he hiked another 13 miles out to file his story.
And The Seattle Times reported on the U.S. Forest Service requiring permits from many news outlets and photographers to film or photograph on wilderness lands that it controls. Such permits can cost up to $1,500. In one case, Idaho Public Radio was told that it had to promise coverage that would be consistent with the Forest Service’s mission — essentially requiring that they do PR — in order to get permission to film. The policy, inconsistently applied, is at worst an attempt of the government to control news coverage on public lands. Media outrage caused the Forest Service to back off the photo fees for the press. The Times quoted Michael Kodas, associate director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, as saying, “Access to agency officials and news scenes on national forest and parklands already is the worst it’s been my entire career. This is yet another reflection of that.”
Bombs away in Alaska
Preservation is tricky everywhere, but Alaska offers a number of special challenges with extreme weather conditions and the remoteness of some cultural resources. Stuff ages fast, neglect is not uncommon and the cost of renovation can be high. A recent victim is the deteriorating Torpedo Building in Unalaska in the Aleutians. Part of a National Historic Register site connected with World War II, the building was where crews loaded torpedoes onto planes to defend the islands against the Japanese. It was not theoretical: Japanese aircraft attacked the military base at Unalaska, located at Dutch Harbor, in 1942, and some of the structures associated with that have been saved and restored. But the Torpedo Building is decaying and is storm damaged — sheets of metal fly off in the wind and have created a hazard for people using an adjacent airport parking lot. Says a story in the Bristol Bay Times, “During World War II, the targets were enemy shipping. Now the victims are adversaries’ motor vehicles…”
The way has been paved for demolition of the structure as a hazard, the only thing holding that up, apparently, is the lack of funds to tear it down, complicated by the fact that the building has asbestos. It’s a shame to lose it, in part because it helps tell a little-remembered story of the war in Alaska (you can read about that in a series of recent articles “The Forgotten Battle for Alaska” here and here and here).
Another Thiry bites the dust
It seems like every year, another creation of the man deemed the father of Northwest modernism, architect Paul Thiry, is demolished. My past Turkey lists have included the teardowns of St. Edwards Catholic Church in Shelton (2009), a 1962 modern beach house in Normandy Park (2010) and Thiry’s own office (2012). This year is no exception.The original Thiry MOHAI building in 1951 (Courtesy of MOHAI)
The Washington State Department of Transportation’s SR520 bridge project doomed the Thiry-designed Museum of History and Industry at Montlake. The museum moved its operations to a more visible location on Lake Union, but it was sad to see the old museum obliterated —along with some “ramps to nowhere”—as the highway expansion entered its Montlake phase. The site of the old MOHAI will be used as a staging area to build a new off-ramp, then returned to a natural state. Still, many history buffs were sad to see the old museum go and prefer to remember it as an example of sleek, mid-century modern architecture (1952) that, while it had been modified over the years, was the place where Seattle came to know itself in an elegant structure by the lake for more than 60 years.
Shucking History in Oysterville?
You may have read about Oysterville, that charming village on Willapa Bay near the tip of the Long Beach Peninsula that was founded in 1854 to help feed to public’s appetite for shellfish. You might have read Willard Espy’s lovely memoir of the same name, where he wrote about “grandpa’s village,” as he was descended from its founder. In 1976, Espy wrote, “Even today, we of Oysterville are at a far reach from the rest of the world.” That same year, Oysterville earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places — a gem of an early Northwest coastal town that was nearly intact, a quiet community — post-oyster boom — with an old cannery and cabins, 19th-century homes and churches tucked off the beaten track. It is recognized by Pacific County as an official Historic District and its buildings are unique, its community and natural fabric are fragile, according to the district’s 1992 design guidelines. But the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is concerned about some recent events, enough that it put Oysterville on its endangered list for 2014.Oysterville (Credit: Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)
The issue, reports the Trust, is that some property owners have ignored the design process when making additions or modifying homes, even in demolishing a contributing historic structure. “[T]he idyllic setting and small town feel has drawn a comparatively high volume of new construction within the district,” says the Trust. Such changes, if they continue, could eventually jeopardize the district’s historic status. When residents have ignored the design review process and made alterations that harm the integrity of the district, according to the Trust, county officials “have neither the budget nor the staff needed to address the violations.” That is, Oysterville has rules without enforcement, a precarious situation of a one-of-a-kind historic treasure that generates, but has not yet been wrecked by, tourism. Pacific County’s pearl must get better protection.
Rampant Wrecking Balls
Maybe it’s the fact that recessionary times have, well, recessed, but the destruction of wonderful homes and buildings throughout the Northwest seems to be rampant now. I recently talked with someone at the Space Needle who said they had counted 60 cranes visible from the top. The danger isn’t just in Seattle or limited to landmarks, but impacting the common structures that add so much character to communities. In response, preservationists are using Facebook and other media to get alerts out to mobilize community action.
In Oregon, for example, there’s Restoreoregon.org, which is seeking a way to manage the teardown tendency that hurts community and sustainability. “In 2013 alone, 279 residential buildings applied for demolition permits in Portland — double the number of house demolitions from just three years ago,” they report. Another Facebook page, Demolition in Portland and Beyond, puts out notices of endangered homes and at-risk commercial structures, looking for people to buy them, move them, save them. Rampant demolitions are seen as a social justice issue as traditional black and poor neighborhoods become gentrified. In 2014 Preservation Idaho gave an “Onion Award” to the general loss of historic fabric in Boise, and in Vancouver, B.C., a Facebook page called Vancouver Vanishes tracks important homes that are being demolished or dismantled. The CBC reported a claim in 2014 that “old homes are being knocked down at an alarming rate of three or four per day, noting last year 1,086 demolition permits were issued in Vancouver, mostly for homes built before 1940.” The short of it is, keeping up with booming demolitions is now a 24-7 activity for many preservationists.
Three years ago, Seth Damm fell in love with 200 yards of raw cotton rope.
The softness and beauty of the glowing-white material instantly enticed Damm — a designer with the hands of a carpenter’s son — to start experimenting. It was this fast love that inspired Neon Zinn, a collection of vibrant, sculptural rope jewelry.
Today, fashion-forward individuals from all corners of the world — Brooklyn, Paris, St. Barth’s, New Orleans, Mexico, Brazil — are hitting the streets with ornate pieces of rope hanging from their necks. Solange Knowles, Beyoncé’s sister, has been carrying Seth’s designs at her shop in New Orleans, a fashion and lifestyle boutique named Exodus Goods.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that all of these loud, colorful designs originally came from rainy Seattle.Product photography of a Damm necklace from Solange Knowles’ store Exodus Goods in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Seth Damm
Born and raised in West Seattle, Damm has considered himself an artist since his childhood — and he is well versed in the language of many mediums. After studying visual art and printmaking at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, he continued his career by delving into the realms of installation, performance and video art.
Still, because his father was a carpenter, Damm grew up with a love for the scents of raw materials, like wood and sawdust. It was the musty smell of the rope that would eventually draw him to the material.
It wasn’t until his post-collegiate residence in New Orleans that a friend asked Damm to put together a jewelry line for an upcoming fashion show. Up until that point, the thought of designing wearable art was a new one for Damm. Just a month before, work on an elaborate performing arts piece had dominated his life. He had only two weeks to make the project happen.
“I think all along, every step of my career has been about listening to the suggestions that come from the people I trust,” he said.
Damm’s work has undergone an evolution in the short time since he first picked up that box of rope. His earlier punk-rock inspired pieces — devoid of pigment and lacking coherent structure — looked nothing like his current necklaces. Struggling to overcome some of the darker motifs associated with rope, he looked towards color in order to mature his designs. He now hand-dyes every single one of his pieces, a process which can take anywhere from four hours to several days.
“These aren’t just accessories,” he began. “They are something that people can imbue themselves with. I use these necklaces as extensions of myself.”
Damm, who finds comfort in solitary work and considers himself a quiet person, says the necklaces help him show the more social, loud side of his personality. He wants his customers to use the jewelry to access the more extroverted, glamorous or mysterious features of their personas.
In order to continue challenging himself, Damm has collaborated with a number of local artists, including jewelry designer Jeri Warlick, a recent transplant from Little Rock. An architect by trade, Warlick decided to focus exclusively on jewelry-making over two years ago. Last year, Warlick and Damm created a line of five unique collaborative pieces.
“I liked the contrast between us,” she said. “Here I am, a woman, working as a metalsmith, and he’s a guy doing all of this delicate hand-dying of textiles. It’s very awesome.”
When he’s not in a state of wanderlust, traveling to places like Martha’s Vineyard and New Orleans, Damm works out of a studio space at Inscape Arts and Cultural Center, based in SoDo.
Tina Randalph, a good friend with whom he shared a studio at Inscape, says there’s a certain ease about working with Damm, who she describes as other-worldly and kind. Their time in the studio together could be spent in complete silence or an air of chatter and laughter, she said.
“He used to tell me that he was so happy to see that the light in the studio was still on, because it meant that I was still there,” said Randolph. “It was so sweet.”
Originally from Montana, Randolph is a self-taught artist who has worked with decorative and fine art.
“I think that he’s become a dear friend to many people in the community here,” said Randolph. “Even in the building, everybody would come by to see Seth. He’s touched a lot of people.”
With the help of online retailing and social media resources like Instagram, Damm has been able to curate an image for his brand and quickly establish a name for himself. He’s already received the attention of huge retailers like Barney’s and Anthropologie and has spread his market-coverage to both L.A. and Dallas. Still, Damm admits that sometimes it’s been a struggle just to stay afloat and make ends meet financially.
Though he’s a Seattle native, breaking into the market of his own hometown has been most challenging. The large majority of Seattleites don’t like expressing themselves by buying and wearing extravagant pieces, he said. Many suggested that Damm’s designs were too bright for the industrial clout of the city.
“I feel like the city wasn’t embracing me and my work in a way that I needed,” said Damm.
In order to inspire himself again, Damm has spent the last couple months in New Orleans, where the costuming culture allows people to be loud and expressive with their fashion choices. In the Big Easy, he’s made fast friends simply by wearing his necklaces outside. For Damm, the air of New Orleans carries a certain foreignness to it. He wants to incorporate a similar kind of eccentricity and mystery into his work.Noelle Scaggs of Fitz and the Tantrums wearing Neon Zinn during an interview at Lollapalooza. Photo courtesy of Seth Damm
Next month, Damm will be traveling to Austin to show off his work at South by Southwest. His necklaces have already been worn on stage by musical artists like Big Fredia, Beat Connection and Thievery Corporation, but Damm wants to work with more performers in the future. And while he yearns to visit places like Tulum and Ghana to expand the visibility of his work, Seattle will always be home base.
“Seattle is sort of in my blood,” he said. “I don’t necessarily have to be around it all the time, but I feel like there’s always a part of me that is Seattle bound.”
The post The West Seattle jewelry artist too bold for his own hometown appeared first on Crosscut.
It's time to get your ducks in a row: The Seattle Times’ 2015 Peeps Contest is underway.
How it works
Make a picture or diorama crafted mostly from marshmallow Peeps, suitable for publication in a family newspaper. Take a digital photo and upload it below (start by clicking on the dark orange button that says "Upload"). When you submit your photo, be sure to note if you’re eligible for the youth category, for ages 12 and under.
Winners will be published in the print edition of The Seattle Times on Sunday, April 5. Cash prizes will be awarded to an adult grand prize winner ($50) and a youth grand prize winner ($25).
The fine print
Deadline for entries is 4 p.m. Monday, March 16. Before entering, read the complete contest rules below, underneath the images.
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Confident or cocky?
After watching this SoundFX breakdown of the Seahawks’ final heartbreaking drive in the Super Bowl, there is an argument to be made that coach Pete Carroll’s unwavering belief in the team’s fairy tale narrative of victory led to the disastrous last call. The NFL-produced video is heavily edited and less dramatic than it could be, but it provides a few revealing sound snippets captured by a combination of wireless and parabolic microphones (which look like hand-held satellite TV discs and can record conversations 30 or 40 yards away).
At the beginning of the drive, Carroll says into his headset, “Two minutes to go, we got three time-outs, we need a touchdown to win. We’ve been doing this all year. Let’s go do it again.” True enough.
Following the completed pass to Marshawn Lynch, Carroll says directly to Russell Wilson, “Three time-outs from the 50 yard line, touchdown to win. We never give you one this easy.” So easy in fact that after Jermaine Kearse makes his miracle, ladybug-on-its-back catch, it seemed pretty obvious to everyone that the fairy tale would indeed have its happy ending. Another win snatched from the claws of defeat, repeat Super Bowl champs, a deluge of confetti, the hometown parade, team immortality. Who can honestly say that images of the victory celebration weren’t already dancing in their heads?
Carroll has admirably stood by his play call (even though it led to a 4am, morning-after crying jag). He has not engaged in the shoulda-coulda-woulda scenarios still twisting fans in knots. But did his blind faith in the team’s mythical narrative lead to a call in which the possibility it could go horribly wrong was never even entertained? After all the pass should have been completed (the narrative ensured it), it could have been completed (the play worked in the past), and it would have been completed (if the ball was thrown a few inches closer to receiver Ricardo Lockette’s left shoulder, or he had muscled forward just a bit).
But here’s the thing: Even if Lockette had caught the ball, it’s unlikely he would have scored. The Patriot’s Malcolm Butler was primed for a direct hit on Lockette, stopping him short of the goal line. That probability makes the play call even more baffling. Why run it unless you believed wholeheartedly (arrogantly? impudently?) in the infallibility of the fairy tale?
Moments later, we hear a stunned Wilson asking Carroll, “What happened?”
Reality, that’s what happened.
The post Viral Video: Pete Carroll’s blind faith in the miracle that never was appeared first on Crosscut.
Gargoyles Statuary – February 2015 Art Show! Ode to Spring! Opening Reception Friday, February 20th 6:00-9:00pm Show runs thru March 16th, 2014
I was driving my black Hyundai Elantra down a back road with my granddaughter Josephine strapped into her carseat, listening to jazz on KPLU, when “A Night in Tunisia,” Dizzy Gillespie’s co-composition from the early 1940s, came on. I cranked up the volume, hoping it wasn’t too loud for her. I thought about explaining why I wanted to hear that particular music, but it seemed too complicated, and besides, I didn’t want to deal with the emotions it would stir up. I didn’t know how to tell Josephine that “A Night in Tunisia” had been our song — one of our songs, anyway.
Circumstances had given us certain other songs, too: the old Smokey and the Miracles number, “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” which Barbara and I had danced to in my lower Queen Anne apartment, a short walk from the old blue King Broadcasting building on Aurora Avenue, where she worked. There was a Bach sonata in G major for viola da gamba and harpsichord , which we had listened to over dinner at her University District apartment with the Murphy bed in the livingroom wall. And “Your Mama Don’t Know,” by Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, which we had danced to years later in our Vashon Island living room with its new oak floors and its old sash windows facing west.
But none was quite like “A Night in Tunisia. ” I had spent my high school and college years listening to Dizzy Gillespie on vinyl and on Symphony Sid’s late-night radio show, and less than two years before, we had heard him live in Seattle at Charlie Puzo’s Penthouse. a jazz club just south of First Avenue’s old pawn shops and SRO hotels, in Pioneer Square. Despite its name, the Penthouse was actually a basement. You always sat close to the musicians. Seattle may have been a backwater in those early post-World’s Fair years, when the 1914 Smith Tower was still the tallest building in town, but a lot of good musicians passed through. In the 12 months after I saw the Rolling Stones make their first Seattle appearance at the Coliseum, I heard both Marvin Gaye and the Temptations at the Eagles Auditorium, and James Brown at the Arena, At the Penthouse, I caught the Modern Jazz Quartet and the Cuban-born conga drummer Mongo Santamaria. And then there was Dizzy, with his trademark puffed cheeks and bent horn.
(Music aside, that night turned out to be personally disillusioning: On a break, Dizzy walked up to a cocktail waitress, gave her a hug and a kiss, walked away. This had evidently happened before. She told another waitress, “Dizzy is so disgusting!”)
This story isn’t really about Dizzy Gillespie, though. It didn’t happen in Seattle. It didn’t happen in Tunisia, either, although we had recently spent a day more-or-less next door in Libya, walking the streets of Tripoli — where our Greek freighter had made an unscheduled stop.
We were in New Delhi when “Tunisia” became ours. It was January. We were on our way from Afghanistan, where we had spent Christmas and New Years, to Sri Lanka, where we would spend a month with my aunt and uncle, eating fresh papaya for breakfast, swimming in the Indian Ocean, hiking up Pidurutalagala and Adam’s Peak, walking the streets of Colombo at dusk to watch huge fruit bats drop from the banyan trees and fly away.
A few months after our wedding, we had left great jobs, boarded a ship in Brooklyn, and set out to travel around a good deal of the world. I was doing some journalism. We were seeing the sights. We didn’t know when we’d be back.
In southern Turkey (not yet a big tourist destination), we ate breakfast on our hotel balcony looking out at the tops of date palms but wrapped in overcoats against the chill; then, when the days warmed up, we walked alone through ruined Greco-Roman cities and swam in deep clear water beneath the cliffs. The only other swimmer was a young clarinet player named Hasan. We wound up spending a lot of time with Hasan and his wife, Şerife, who was a belly dancer, and their baby son. He invited us to a couple of gigs. One turned out to be the women-only ceremony the night before a group of 12-year-old boys was to be ritually circumcised. Barbara and Şerife stood down on the floor with the women, Hasan and I stayed up on stage behind a curtain with the musicians. They played Dixieland with a Turkish inflection, passed around a bottle, peered out through the break in the curtain at the women.
In Tehran, where fading coronation posters of the Shah hung on blank walls, we celebrated Barbara’s birthday with blini caviar and vodka — which came came frozen in a block of ice — at a White Russian restaurant called Leon’s Grill. Diplomats in Tehran told me that the conservative mullahs posed a serious threat to the Shah’s regime, but the Islamic revolution lay years in the future, and it was hard to believe. One Friday eveening, we went to a cocktail party at the old American embassy — the same one later taken over by Islamic militants — and stayed late talking with the ambassador and his wife, a published short story writer, and Wallace and Mary Stegner, whom the U.S. government was sending through Asia on a cultural tour. For lunch, we went often to the Palace Grill, where we and groups of Japanese businessmen drank beer, locals drank Coke, everyone ate chelo kebab, and no one escaped the soundtrack from “The Sound of Music.” I always associate “The Sound of Music” with Tehran.
And I associate a kind of wood smoke with Kabul. We smelled it whenever we walked through the streets there. Sometimes, we smelled hashish, too. After Tehran, Kabul, not yet shattered by years of war, seemed Spartan. The city was cold and stark, with snow gleaming on the nearby mountains. Except for black embassy cars on inscrutable missions and elaborately painted old trucks, there weren’t many vehicles. Poor people wrapped themselves in old bedspreads and tablecloths to stay warm. Hazaras from the central mountains pulled heavy wooden carts piled high with cauliflower . We saw endless images of the balding king, and once, at a restaurant outside town, saw the prince, dressed in sunglasses and black leather jacket. I talked with diplomats and government officials. They knew that the nominal government in Kabul had never controlled the tribal areas. We realized that the whole political structure was going to crumble. We just didn’t know what would come next. For Christmas, I found Barbara a very old pin with a verse from the Koran beautifully inscribed in lapis lazuli. The manager of a hotel invited us and another traveler up to a private room to hear a very good performance of traditional music. While we were there, someone stole our passports and half our traveler’s checks. Getting the documents we needed to leave the country turned out to be a weeks-long bureaucratic nightmare, although with some distance, just another good story from our youth, kind of like the time a rolling boulder almost nailed us as we scrambled up Red Mountain in the Cascades.
From Kabul, we took a bus through the Khyber Pass to Peshawar. In the villages, men carried rifles that looked as though they might have been left over from Britain’s Third Afghan War of 1919. No one had Kalashnikovs or rocket launchers yet, but everyone was armed. We took a train to Lahore, then a three-wheeled cab to the border, and walked across. You could only cross the border on foot. And you had to clear customs by sundown. Two Austrian hippies ahead of us were giving the Indian customs official a hard time, just because he was a customs official and because they could. The sun was dropping lower and lower.
We started to worry that we wouldn’t make it by sundown. But the Austrians finally got through and so did we, and we took a second-class train to New Delhi. We smelled marigolds on the station platforms, watched the green plain roll by, arrived next day at a crowded station. Our car was jammed with passengers and with huge cloth-wrapped bundles, some crammed into luggage racks, some blocking the aisles. As soon as the train stopped, before the passengers had gotten off, other people started crowding on, pushing up through the doors, climbing in through the windows. Once we reached the platform, desperate hands reached for our luggage.
We took a taxi to a hotel that we had picked, sight-unseen, from a travel guide. That night, we went downstairs to the hotel restaurant. We entered from the back. There was a low bandstand at the front. The menu was European. We ordered the soufflé. Our obsequious waiter literally sprang to our table every time we looked as if we might want something.
On the bandstand, a trio of Indian musicians was playing tame arrangements of big-band-era music for what seemed to be Australian tourists on the dance floor. The middle-aged bandleader played guitar. The music wasn’t very good. And it clearly wasn’t what those musicians wanted to play. From the way they handled their instruments, we could tell that they were really jazz musicians, just doing it for the money.
When they took a break, I walked up to the bandstand and talked to the guitar player, who told me about his daughter in San Francisco. Hey, I asked them — figuring I knew the answer — can you play “A Night in Tunisia?” Their faces lit up. They clearly took requests, but this could well have been the first time anyone had requested something they liked. You bet they could. I went back to my table.
They started their next set with “A Night in Tunisia. ” They were obviously happy. Nobody danced. We finished our dinner. By the time we left, the Australians were on the dance floor again.
The next day we hired a car and left early for Agra, to see the Taj Mahal. On the way, we stopped at the intricately worked red sandstone of emperor Akbar’s tomb. In Agra, of course, we saw the ethereal white dome of the Taj floating above its reflecting pool. On the way home, our driver insisted on stopping at a roadside tea house. It served perhaps the worst tea I had ever tasted. Remarkably stout chunks of tea stem floated in our cups. I imagined them as the sweepings of some warehouse floor.
By the time we got back to our hotel it had been dark for hours. We wanted to shower and change our clothes (Actually, we had been traveling so long that we would have been happy to throw our clothes away — as Barbara eventually did, dumping her drip-dry dresses in the trash as soon as we got home.) But the restaurant was about to close, so we headed straight to dinner.
We walked in as before, from the rear. The same musicians were playing the same regrettable tunes, and what looked like the same Australians were dancing.
The musicians must have been watching out for us. When we came through the room, they stopped what they were playing in midstream, leaving the dancers marooned on the floor, and launched into “A Night in Tunisia. ” Just for us. At that moment, it really became our song.
Jean-Pierre and Luc, known together as the Dardenne Brothers, have crafted another sneak attack on our sense of social justice with their latest picture, Two Days, One Night. In the last twenty years, films such as The Kid With a Bike, L’Enfant, The Silence of Lorna, Rosetta and La Promesse have focused on the overriding concern of these two vibrant, compassionate, humanist filmmakers: the desperate struggle of the working class, and the borderline criminal class, to not only earn a living wage within our heartless economic climate, but to also retain – or discover for the first time – their self-esteem, or at least their capacity to care for their fellow human being. This is the theme of Two Days, One Night, perhaps their most timely and incisive film yet. It puts several human faces on the cruel calculus of “profits above people” which seems to be the only factor at play in the business world’s headlong rush to the bottom line.
Set in a nameless working class French suburb over the course of a sunny, summer weekend, the Dardenne’s kinetic handheld camera accompanies Sandra (Marion Cotillard, who is tremendous), a wife and mother of two kids, as she embarks on a campaign to get her job back. Her fellow employees were given a choice: Accept a bonus of a thousand euros each and Sandra, who has been on sick leave, is laid off, or forgo the bonus to keep Sandra on the assembly line. In an ironic touch, the company they work for manufactures solar panels, which tells us that even the highly-touted new jobs in renewable energy industries will gladly be sacrificed if a company can save a few bucks. As Sandra knocks on doors and makes phone calls, cajoling, pleading, even reluctantly guilt-tripping her fellow workers into surrendering their bonuses, we come into intimate contact with the near-desperate, paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle of the wage slave.
We also learn that Sandra has had problems with depression – she is prone to crying jags – that she lacks confidence; that her marriage may be unstable. But, even though she is expendable in the eyes of her boss, her troubles don’t seem to be factors in the decision made by her co-workers.
As she pays her visits to several of them, trying to convince a majority to change their minds (she needs 9 out of 16 to vote to keep her), we learn that all of them have their own needs and issues, which they believe the thousand extra euros will help ameliorate. This is perhaps the cruelest equation of all. Without needing to explicitly say so, the Dardennes make it clear that once those euros are spent, the economic hardships will return, and Sandra will still be out of a job. Some of her colleagues take her side, and these scenes are the most moving in the film; others angrily refuse, forcing her to assess her own sense of self-pity.
The filmmakers’ approach to their story – free of music, calculated art direction or aesthetic stylization – can sometimes take awhile to warm up to. Scenes can feel repetitious, and the blandness of the surroundings is almost claustrophobic. But this is all part of the brother’s documentary-like design, their insistence on our identification with Sandra’s grueling, debasing campaign. How far would we go to keep our jobs? Whom would we sacrifice? What part of our soul is for sale? For Sandra, the answer arrives in the film’s final, unexpected sequence.
This review first appeared on The Restless Critic blog.
The post Now Showing: The cruel world of “Two Days, One Night” appeared first on Crosscut.
You’re going to die in here, I thought to myself. I had never felt claustrophobic before I laid down in this coffin-sized tank of warm, salty water, but I felt a panic attack coming on. My rational brain knew I was safe – I was just floating in a sensory deprivation tank, and could leave its dark, stuffy confines whenever I wanted – but it felt so wrong to be feeling nothing.
Floating tanks are designed to eliminate sensory input. They block outside noise – and floaters are instructed to wear earplugs to minimize the sound of water sloshing around them. They are completely dark, save a faint blue light that floaters can choose to flip on, via a button on the side of the tank. The water is extremely salty, effortlessly supporting the floater’s weight, and is heated to skin temperature, so it’s hard to tell where you end and the water begins.
The technique was established in the ‘50s by John C. Lilly, who studied sensory deprivation at the National Institutes of Mental Health. (Lilly left the NIMH after determining the government agency stifled his creativity; he later undertook a project teaching dolphins to speak, and was convinced that the universe was governed by a council of cosmic beings.)
“Relaxation tanks” were big in the ‘80s, but their popularity lost steam in light of the AIDS scare. The last few years have seen a resurgence in their popularity. Since 2012, there’s been an annual Float Conference (in Portland, of course), and small float businesses have cropped up in major cities across the world. There are two in Seattle: Float Seattle in Greenlake, and Urban Float in Fremont.
It’s no wonder that the concept has been embraced by urban dwellers. From rumbling trucks, smartphone screens, and crowded sidewalks, city living accosts the senses. Floating offers a refuge from noise and clutter. Float businesses advertise the health benefits of sensory deprivation, claiming that it improves creativity and mental clarity while eliminating stress. Some offer science-y explanations to back up these claims, citing studies about adrenaline, cortisol and dopamine. But are these claims scientific, or just advertising? I had to try it to believe it.
By the time my Tuesday evening float appointment rolled around, I was ready for some peace and quiet. I had spent the day elbowing my way through Pike Place Market, texting with friends to make plans and riding jerky buses, but the chaos dissipated as I walked into Float Seattle.The lobby at Greenlake’s Float Seattle. Credit: Float Seattle
My float chaperone spoke in the softest zen voice, and reassured me that my earliness was not a problem – and he offered to extend my hour-long float by half an hour. He showed me to a private room where I was to strip down, shower, insert earplugs, turn off the lights, and climb into the tank.
After I closed the tank door behind me, I bobbed in the water, left alone with my thoughts. I generally think of myself as a fairly relaxed person, but floating took me to all the worst corners of my mind.
Is it possible to suffocate in this tank? Why did I agree to this? What am I supposed to do for an hour and a half? I could be doing real things, like packing for my upcoming trip or going to the gym. And what is this salt water doing to my hair? Has it been 20 minutes yet? 30 minutes? I feel nauseous — what if I puke in this tank?
This worst-case-scenario thinking went on for awhile. There’s no way to tell how far into the float I finally calmed down, but I was a lot happier after I accepted the loss of my senses. I closed my eyes, concentrated on my breathing and let the salt water carry the weight of my body. I drifted into a trance, but couldn’t actually fall asleep.
Float tank enthusiasts might say that this trance was my experience of increased theta waves, which occurs in sensory deprivation, meditation and sleep. There’s some experimental evidence that the relaxation that comes from floating has therapeutic purposes; a meta-analysis of 27 studies on floating (also called Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy, or REST) found that it’s associated with lower cortisol and blood pressure, improved people’s sense of well-being, and even improved jazz musicians’ and basketball players’ performances days later.
Another study found that it decreased people’s self-reported levels of anxiety, and and it has been used to treat pain, chronic whiplash-associated disorders, PTSD and depression. REST is seen as an alternative to other unconventional treatments like hallucinogens, because it appears to produce some of the same positive outcomes, but with fewer side-effects, like anxiety. After all, you can leave a float tank whenever you want, but you can’t leave a drug trip.
When I heard the soft music that signaled the end of my float, I felt both disappointment and relief. As I climbed out of the tank, the cool air and lights were a shock — I had to sit down in the shower as I washed off the salty water. As I dressed, my winter clothes felt strangely heavy on my body.
“Welcome back,” my float chaperone said as I exited the room, and he handed me some bottled water. “Be sure to rehydrate after all the salt. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you like.” As I struggled to reacclimate to the bright, loud world outside the tank, I made small talk with a man waiting for his appointment. He was a long-time floater; he’d estimated he’d floated over 50 times.
“I’m kind of addicted,” he said. When I finally left the Float Seattle building, I felt tingly, warm, and very loose — a whole body high that lasted for hours.
I felt great after my float, and I wondered what exactly was happening in my body to make me feel that way. Did the lack of sensory input relax me, or just the act of setting aside an hour and a half to do nothing? Was it an influx of endorphins, as float businesses’ promo materials suggest?
It turns out that science is not yet sure why REST works. The claims float businesses make about increased endorphins and decreased stress hormones are reasonable guesses, but there exists little scientific evidence to support those theories. The data behind REST studies are typically people’s self-reports of their experiences, or physical measures after floating. That data tells us how people feel and the state of their bodies after floating, but it can’t tell us what’s happening in their brains and bodies while floating.
For all we know, these positive effects could be a placebo effect — people expect to feel better, so they do – or could be achieved through simpler means, like traditional meditation. We may never know for sure – it’s actually impossible to obtain an accurate objective measure of brain waves or hormones since electrodes and monitors would fundamentally change the float experience.
Back out in the lobby, I noticed a beautiful leather-bound book on the bench beside me. It was full of contributions from past visitors: doodles, words of inspiration, accounts of first floats and epiphanies from the tank (my favorite: “YOU ARE INFINITE”).
Scientific effects aside, it was obvious that floating has helped plenty of locals feel better about their lives, if only for a few hours. And that counts for something.
The post Is there any real science behind the urban float craze? appeared first on Crosscut.
A Little Valentine’s Day Gift for Y’all! Interview with Ex-Green River Drummer–Now Exs With Benefits Songwriter, Alex Vincent!
The Weekend List: SAM’s Native American art cache, Cat Stevens sing-a-long & a 6-hr Moore music marathon
* Denotes items that are $15 or less
Seattle Asian American Film Festival *
I’ve been a fan of this festival for years. Back then, it had a different name and once screened a Canadian film by then no-name actor Sandra Oh. This year, a documentary on George Takei headlines. “To Be Takei” might arguably draw the biggest audiences (in Seattle, seriously, who does not love Takei?), but the festival line-up also includes other worthy documentaries.
“Documented” traces the story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who outed himself as undocumented; “The Last Season” looks at seasonal workers hunting for mushrooms in Oregon; “Kumu Hina” chronicles the struggle of a transgender woman to maintain her Pacific Islander culture and “9-Man” is about a type of Chinese-American streetball. The festival also includes three free screenings of shorts (social justice, animated and horror and sci-fi, and films focusing on the theme “struggle.”).
If you go: Seattle Asian American Film Festival, Northwest Film Forum, Feb.12 to 15 ($11 per screening or $75 for a festival pass). — F.D.
Industrial Revelation, McTuff and Heatwarmer *
Industrial Revelation, McTuff, and Heatwarmer. These are the local titans of jazz fusion, and they share a Neumos bill this week. Expect a sonic journey through time and space. Imagine a mixture of Herbie Hancock, King Crimson, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The King Crimson reference here mostly concerns Heatwarmer, who possess an ironclad progressive rock sensibility. Their frontman and bassist, Luke Bergman, teaches at the UW School of Jazz. McTuff founder and centerpiece Joe Doria may be the best organist I’ve ever seen live. Industrial Revelation is perhaps the most traditional of the three, but that’s not saying much given the nature of the other two. Industrial Revelation keeps things tight and groovy, and brings head spinning crescendos to bear when the timing’s right.
If you go: Industrial Revelation, McTuff and Heatwarmer, Neumos, Feb. 12 ($12). 21+ — J.S.H.
Seattle Art Museum’s Indigenous BeautyQötsa Nata’aska
Kachina (detail), ca.
1880, Hopi, wood,
organic fiber, pigments,
18 1/2 × 6 ×7 in.
Diker no. 831
Federation of Arts
Valerie and Charles Diker were a New York couple way into modern and contemporary art when, on a trip to the Southwest in the 1970s, they came upon a basket woven by an American Indian. And that eventually triggered a 40-plus-year love affair with Native American art.
It didn’t matter, Valerie Diker said in an interview, that someone unknown made the art. It’s the aesthetic that has always drawn them. Here’s how she decides whether or not something is worth collecting: “You look at something and you say, ‘Oh.’ And then there’s work that makes you say ‘Oh, dear.’ And then there’s something that makes you say, ‘Oh, MY!’”
A total of 122 works from the Diker Collection, representing tribes and First Nations from across North America, are on display at SAM and it’s a stunning, mesmerizing show. The beading, the basketry, the weaving and the carving.
The show is presented alongside 60 Northwest Coast Native works from local private collections that includes something fabulous that I had never seen before: A Haida manga, a large watercolor by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, considered the godfather of this visual genre. The artwork, whose characters push beyond the traditional “white borders” of comics, was included in RED, a graphic novel about a pair of siblings and revenge. You will lose yourself in it — in a good way.
If you go: Indigenous Beauty, Seattle Art Museum, Now through May 17 ($19.50). — F.D.
Harold and Maude *
My favorite Valentine’s Day weekend tradition returns! Head to SIFF with a loved one to experience or re-experience the cult classic Harold and Maude. This dark romantic comedy, chronicling the escapades of a depressed young man (Bud Cort) and a whimsical 79-year-old woman (Ruth Gordon), has just the right amount of quirk, laughs and charm (owed in large part to the wonderful Cat Stevens soundtrack) to keep it alluring, even 44 years after its release. Head there early for a pre-show Cat Stevens sing-along, which sounds like the most life-affirming experience ever.
If you go: Harold and Maude, SIFF Cinema Uptown, 6:45 p.m. Feb. 13 – 15 ($12) — N.C.
Valentine’s Day Out On The Town
Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, but there seem to be more Valentine’s Day dinners out there than ever. I’ll frontload this with a few options for those not into Valentine’s Day: proceed like it’s any other day OR head to Linda’s or King’s to drink and send a loved one a shot-o-gram (a shot with a Valentine attached to someone across the bar). Lovers of Valentine’s Day, read on.
If you’re willing to spend about $65 a person, you have a great many options, from my favorite standby The Gastropod to Maria Hines’ Agrodolce — which is offering both dinner AND brunch — to inspired French-Korean Joule in Wallingford. At a price notch below, you can head to Skillet in Ballard or Capitol Hill for a three-course prix fixe dinner at only $36 a head. If you want to keep it really simple, I recommend a home-cooked meal of something special, preceded by Volunteer Park Conservatory’s wine and cocktail hour. You’ll be beneath a glass rooftop, surrounded by plants, imbibing in the creations of Hoodsport, WA Hardware Distillery. Best of all, your loved one will be delightfully surprised.
If you go: Valentine’s Day Wine and Cocktail Hour, Volunteer Park Conservatory, Three different tasting times on Feb. 14th ($25) — N.C.
These days, the word emo has a reputation. Like communist during the McCarthy Era or the word Voldemort among wizarding folk, emo’s negative connotation is so towering, so pernicious that invoking it strikes terror and paranoia in the hearts of young hipsters. So let’s call Cursive a rock band consistently grappling with the existential dilemmas that plague the human condition.
Cursive’s baroque, almost orchestral arrangements (often featuring horns and cello) transcend the clumsy thrashing partially responsible for emo’s bad rap. Their lyrics are equally complex; as a sample of their tone, consider a line in “From the Hips.” It goes: “We’re all just trying to play our roles / in a play that runs ad nauseum / I hate this damn enlightenment / we were better off as animals.” It can be read as a bit mopey, but it’s smart and cutting as well, with hints of Darwinian Nihilism. This is a far cry from My Chemical Romance.
If you go: Cursive, Neumos, Feb. 14 ($17). All ages — J.S.H.
Bang on a Can Marathon
This is a 6-hour genre-bending live music concert. As Vanity Fair has described it: “Imagine Lollapalooza advised by the ghost of John Cage.” Billed as a “new music phenomenon,” the performers include musicians from across the country as well as some of our very own including Eyvind Kang and Jessika Kenney, Morgan Henderson and Shabazz Palaces. The marathon opens with the Seattle premiere of Steve Reich’s landmark work Music for 18 Musicians and will also include an arrangement of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports.
If you go: Bang on a Can Marathon, Moore Theatre, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 15 ($45; students w/ID $22.50). — F.D.
Body Language *
These days, half of the electronic music emanating from music festival stages sounds like it was beamed into the speakers from some remote star system. While this sonic expansion is often awe-inspiring, it runs the risk of alienating its audiences because it lacks soul. Too often, Electronica sounds hollow; the spirit gets lost in the computers.
Not so with Body Language, a group from Brooklyn with a down-to-earth name that befits the humanity present in their sound. You’ll hear a sparkly, R&B tint to their optimistic, clubby EDM somewhat reminiscent of the combination that garnered local duo Odesza so much acclaim. The group has a free EP — “Infinite Sunshine” — posted on their bandcamp page. What better way to get a taste of the performance to come?
If you go: Body Language, Barboza, Feb. 17 ($13). 21+ — J.S.H.
The post The Weekend List: SAM’s Native American art cache, Cat Stevens sing-a-long & a 6-hr Moore music marathon appeared first on Crosscut.
Kimisha Turner Leaves us Speechless–Talking about Art, Seattle, Life and the Unforgrettable Story of Fortune’s Bones!
When it comes to the ‘smart city’ designation, Seattle is an overachiever. Definitions of what exactly makes a city ‘smart’ vary, but they almost always include a place’s conservation, connectedness, alternative transportation, walkability and a responsive, well-wired city government.
What that ‘smart’ designation leaves out: In most cities, and specifically Seattle, engineering for dogs may matter as much as engineering for bikes. (I don’t say this lightly; I’m a ride leader for the Seattle-based Cascade Bicycle Club as well as a dog owner).
In 2011, the number of dogs in the city of Seattle was greater than the number of children: 153,000 dogs to 107,000 children. That’s about 1.4 dogs for every child. Nationwide, that number is 1.1 to 1. Dog ownership and bike ownership aren’t that different – 158,000 Seattle households owned bikes in 2013. (The 153,000 figure for dogs was from 2010.) That means that roughly one quarter of us own a dog or a bike (or, like me, both).
That’s largely good news for the Seattle area. There are health benefits to dog ownership: Owners are more likely to have a strong heart and lower cholesterol, and less likely to report feeling lonely.
Unexpected community benefits arise too. Some research suggests that dog parks and dog-friendly walk routes can help reduce crime because of the extra eyes and ears (and noses) on the street. Frequent dog-walkers in any given neighborhood tend to know each other and a simple search on Meetup.com for anything related to “dog” in Seattle turns up pages of information about groups related to therapy dogs, hiking with dogs and the love of over twenty distinct dog breeds.
Dogs are also doing more actual work around town. There are now guide dogs, therapy dogs, assistance dogs, hearing dogs, seizure alert dogs and autism service dogs.
So how are we doing on the dog-friendly front?
As it turns out, not too badly. For one thing, dogs in Seattle can ride buses. There are a few other cities where small dogs can ride on laps if they are in a carrier, and it’s likely that purse dogs ride buses unseen throughout North American cities, but it appears that Seattle is the only city that allows regular pet dogs of all sizes as long as they are leashed and well-behaved. Drivers do have discretion, and might refuse a Great Dane entrance to a full bus, but nonetheless this is a great perk for Seattle dog owners.
Seattle has a great animal shelter. The city recently invested in a significant renovation of the dog kennels, and the shelter staff work hard at education and outreach. The community reviews the shelter well, at nearly four out of five stars. Earlier this year, Mayor Ed Murray declared that “The welfare of the animals in the care of the city is a priority,” when he helped cut the ribbon on the newly refurbished shelter.
Dogs are welcome in most Seattle parks, and there are fourteen off-leash areas listed on the Seattle Parks and Recreation website. Just outside of the city, there are exceptional dog parks at Mercer Island’s Luther Burbank Park and Redmond’s Marymoor Park, which has forty acres of off-leash area. Forty acres. It might even be possible to ride the bus from Seattle to Redmond with your dog.
What might we do in the future?
When parks are planned or changed, dogs could be better integrated into the new designs, with bigger off-leash areas and more attention to how people could walk to and from the off-leash areas. In some existing cases, dog parks have been added after the park was designed, leaving off-leash areas either too small, or too close to neighbors or other park users bothered by the noise of happy dogs running barking through the park.
Just as there are posted routes for bicycles or walkers in many areas, there could also be posted routes to encourage dog walking on routes where the sidewalks are wide enough for dogs and strollers to pass easily.
The greater number of working dogs presents both opportunities and challenges. Animal licensing centers could give working dogs a special RFID chip that validates their status for worried restaurant or theater owners.
These are only a few ideas. Seattle already partners with Citizens for Off Leash Areas, and there may be other dog-related stakeholders who deal with service dogs or athletic dogs (such as dogs who play flyball or practice agility).
Perhaps it’s time to consider a dog master plan.
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