Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
Mostly, this is a diary of a week-long trip to Seattle to remember my family's older generation, but first Marianne and I needed to complete local obligations. She visited Vernissage, the gallery where she will have a big show in July. Proprietor Ma Ly's wife took a public relations shot for Facebook.
Meanwhile, I went to a pair of civil service meetings. The first was for "Better Blackstone - Smart Mobility Project". This is an ambitious street beautification project for which the design study phase is finishing. Hopefully, the city can get real funding to implement improvements.
We also went to a board meeting at Fresno City College where a vote was held to start a parking garage project. This may not sound important to you, but for us it is the next step in a years-long effort to both help the college students and staff save time and effort and to move some of their traffic off our historic neighborhood street. Three of us neighbors had a chance to (nervously) talk to the board to boost the project. Good news: the parking project was authorized.
The other before-we-leave project was Spring cleaning in the back yard. Our large yard was not my idea, but I have to admit the occasional whole-yard fix-up felt good. Looks good, don't you think?
Now we were free to fly north. It had been awhile since our last air travel and I found my flying nervousness came back. Over several decades and hundreds of flights, I have always been apprehensive as flight time approaches. Generally, I am fine once the planes takes off, but before then I can be ... difficult. Sorry.
The flight path started over Mamo's neighborhood. I am not sure my picture found HER house, but you get the idea.
The skies were hazy, but pretty soon the Sierra Nevadas popped up above the clouds. It seemed like we were high enough to see the curvature of the earth. Probably not.
Within a few minutes, we were passing Yosemite, Mono Lake, and Lake Tahoe. The amount of snow was remarkable, especially for April.
For the next hour-and-a-half, the clouds gradually got thicker and my photo-taking stopped. I had hoped for shots of Oregon and Washington mountains, but that will have to wait for the return flight (In fact, the skies were worse on the return). As we approached Sea-Tac Airport, we descended below the clouds and were given a nice tour of downtown, including a turn over the Ballard district where we would be staying.
After this tour, we landed and went through the regular formalities: gather our plane-things, visit restrooms, find baggage claim, find the bus to Hertz, load up our rental car, and hit the road to town. I think we went through all this on automatic.
For driving on this visit, we reverted to our "big city" system: Marianne drives, while I navigate. This fits our skills and temperments. My iPhone directed us up the western highways into town, not via Interstate 5.
I think it has been 30 or even 50 years since I took this route and it was a nice surprise. Traffic was reasonable and we went right through the center of Seattle via the recently-opened tunnel that replaced the old Alaska Way Viaduct. Definitely an improvement.
In the Ballard district we found our B and B with little pain. We had reserved a one-bedroom apartment in "The Commons", a modern apartment complex right in the center of trendy Ballard. When I was growing up and later when going to graduate school, Ballard was blue-collar at best, anything but trendy.
Aaron, the building manager, helped us learn all the details of our room. A pair of electronic keys were the major challenge. Not senior-friendly. Once settled, I checked out the roof-top view: the boat yard that is the heart of Ballard. Very Seattle.
Then we headed downstairs, getting no farther than the first-floor restaurant: Gather Kitchen and Bar. We started with just a glass of wine at the bar, but the atmosphere was friendly so we ordered introductory food. And then that food was good enough that we ordered roasted halibut and more wine. Desserts were so yummy that we cleaned our plates before we could snap the required foodie shot.
Sure, it was too many calories, but we promised to be careful tomorrow. Besides, after dinner we walked down and up Ballard Street, mostly seeing other restaurants and bars where we planned more calories for later in our stay.
Friday started with a diary session at Starbucks, where I watched a very-Seattle clientele walk in: pale, some a bit rough, and others high tech and in a hurry. I know Starbucks gets grief as a huge force in the coffee business, and some folks do mumble about the "bit rough" who show up, especially in the early morning, but I think the company and crews deserve kudos for welcoming down-and-outers that society might rather not see. I now recognize a handful of them from my daily visits to the Ballard Starbucks, just people staying warm, dry, and caffeinated.
After an hour or two of morning writing, Marianne joined me for her cappuccino and then it was off to breakfast. Our Ballard neighborhood has plenty of restaurants to choose from, even for breakfast. We asked a shopkeeper for recommendations and she immediately said "the Hi Life". She was right. The converted firehouse was warm and friendly, common here in Seattle, and the food was tasty. Yet another recommendation we pass along.
Over breakfast, we planned our day. The weather forecast looked good for another 24-hours so I thought it should be a car-free time for walking and there is plenty to see in Ballard itself. We started with another rooftop photo excursion where the Olympic Mountains formed the western horizon and Mount Rainier loomed to the South. I hope it doesn't erupt as a volcano while we are here, always a possibility.
Just across from my Starbucks was Bergen Place, a monument and park devoted to Seattle's Norwegian sister-city, Bergen. King Olaf V dedicated the space in the mid 1970s in honor of all my mom's relatives who had settled in Ballard.
Farther west along Market Street we ran across brave young people at the Stone Gardens working on their technique. They tried to convince us to give it a try: "It's safer than climbing on a ladder." Maybe, but not today.
We next checked out the scene down on the ship passage. This is the heart of Ballard, where my mom's people originally kept their fishing boats. Nowadays it is a mix of pleasure boats and the one remaining local boatyard. It is still a fisherman's cooperative, building aluminum and steel working boats from the keel up.
Speaking of my Norwegian relatives, we could not pass up the Nordic Museum. It a a large, airy building covering the history of the five Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland) and their connection with America.
The first exhibit area was titled "The Vikings Begin" and described the movement of the northern Europeans from their homelands throughout Europe in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries. On display were amazing hand work, from jewelry to battle implements. My forefathers were good artists and craftsmen, but NOT friendly-to-strangers types. Today, they're better in Ballard.
The upper floor of the museum is devoted to the American life of Nordic immigrants. According to one museum display, over one-third of the Nordic people emigrated to this country between 1840 and 1920. Now THAT'S a foreign invasion.
As immigrants do, northern Europeans settled in places where they could feel at home, farmers in the mid-West and fishermen out here in Seattle. In the bad old days, these complex red fish-processing machines were called "iron chinks", having replaced the Chinese and Filipino workers who originally ran the fish cleaning processes. Seattle still benefits from the mix of cultures that built the fishing industry.
The next stop on the self-guided Ballard tour were the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. We happened upon a real guide and proceeded to learn about the century-old Army Core of Engineers facility. The waterway runs inland from Puget Sound and was key in the fishing and boating industry, allowing boats to be built and repaired in the quiet fresh-waters of Lake Union and Lake Washington as well as provided a convenient path for the coal and timber harvested in western Washington.
The locks remain important for local commerce and we watched as a tour boat, a gravel barge, and various pleasure craft negotiated the two parallel locks. Our guide noted that summer traffic is quite a bit busier, but even in this off-season, there was a continuous flow of boats up and down the water elevators.
A fish ladder runs on the far side of the locks, allowing salmon to migrate from the ocean and Puget Sound all the way to the streams feeding Lake Washington. Our visit was not well-timed for fish viewing, since there were neither young salmon headed out nor mature mothers returning, but the fishy art work is always there.
Also on the south side of the waterway, the guide pointed out a cluster of trees that were filled with nests of Cormorants and Blue Herons. All this wildlife thrives within a mile or so of downtown Seattle.
The Carl S. English Botanical Garden runs alongside the Chittenden Locks. Started in 1931, the garden was built by Carl English into reportedly one of the finest botanical gardens in the American West. Our visit was a little early in the year for full display of the varied plantings, but there were enough scenes to use up some film and just enjoy the sun and quiet.
All this walking (over 10,000 Fitbit-measured steps) made us hungry and tired. After a short rest at home, we headed to another recommended restaurant: Stoneburner in the Hotel Ballard.
We splurged on pizza and beer. It was worth the calories and, besides, all those steps had created an energy deficit.
After dinner, we walked on Ballard Avenue even more, to make sure we had worn off any excess calories. We stopped at Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop and wandered through a strange collection of goods for sale. No sales for us, however.
All in all, it was a long day, with miles and miles of walking, much of that with my many-pound camera backpack. I was glad I had spent the week before training daily at the gym. On Friday, I would limit myself to just my point-and-shoot!
On our travels, we almost always have a day or two (or three, four, ...) devoted to art: museums, galleries, and studios. In Seattle, this could easily have been several days, but we settled for just one, Friday, and a single part of town, Pioneer Square. We took Bus #40 from our Ballard base, enjoying a no-drive half-hour ride through the complex Seattle streets and roads. Public transportation is the ONLY way to go.
Our first stop was the TK Studios and Art building. Most studios and galleries were not open for the public, but Vikam Madan was nice enough to answer the doorbell and invite us in. Madan is a computer-programmer-turned-painter and his work was charming (as was he!) I particularly liked his Self Portrait of the Artist in the Age of Alternative Facts (aka "The Scream") and I Paint Therefor I Am (painting his mind).
On the other side of the TK Studios building, the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA), a co-op for new artists, welcomed us in and asked us to vote for our favorites. The voted-most-popular would receive a $100 art supply gift certificate. Marianne chose a work by Laura Van Horne, who we would meet in another gallery. I chose the one on the right, but failed to note the artists name.
Not far away, we stopped at the Greg Kucera Gallery, a large and very professional space. Here, there was lots to like. The Darren Waterston paintings were featured in the first hall, but I found myself drawn to three-dimensional pieces, including Guy Anderson's rock and Dan Webb's pair of wood carvings, one intricate and rough and the other a smooth flow.
The next stop on our art tour was The Foster/White Gallery, another large, professional display space where there was plenty to admire. The work of two artists stood out for us, Mark Rediske's encaustic panels and Camron Anne Mason's textiles. Marianne was inspired by Rediske's layering technique, a variation on her own mixed-media panels. As for the textile panels and "vases", the craft and the imagination were just amazing.
Farther down in Pioneer Square we stopped at Stonington Gallery, a shop specializing in native art of the Northwest. The pieces here were not the simple kitsch found at tourist shops in the area but rather special contemporary interpretations of the traditional arts. The masks by Drew Michael, for example, were traditional carvings, but the feather additions added a purely modern feel. The middle two pictures here are by Rick Bartow, another Northwest artist with a distinct, open, style. Finally, the glass fish by Raven Skywater seemed real enough to swim away.
By now we had worked up an appetite and, looking in windows at other diners' plates, we chose London Plane for the stacks of rough bread on every table. A good carbohydrate lunch was what the rainy day called for. I think we added soup and salad, but I only remember the bread. Worth a visit.
After lunch, we paused quickly at Axios, a gallery and event space. More event space than gallery, but we did like the dramatic dark lines of the Carolyn Hitt paintings.
Our last Pioneer Square stop was the Linda Hodges Gallery. Again, there was far too much to see to detail in this diary, but the four works below stood out for me. On the left is an encaustic cityscape by Patti Bowman. The detail and color were different from what we have seen in encaustic before. Next is a seascape by Ricardo Duque, one of the two artists who were manning the gallery on this rainy day. Ricardo explained that the third painting, a four-foot square work by a guest artists who's name I did not catch, was completed in 24-hours just the day before. Finally, Laura Van Horne, also on gallery-duty this Friday, described her encaustic pieces to Marianne. More to think about for our in-house artist.
That was it for art. We walked in the rain from Pioneer square uphill to the central transit mall and caught #40 back to Ballard, pretty much saturated with art ideas, as well as rain.
Back home in Ballard, we opted for sushi at Moshi Moshi and sat at the bar getting a close look at artistry of a different type. The small group of "Seattle Roll", poke, and sake was our dinner. The large party plate was for a neighboring table. I hope they were hungry.
We stopped at D'Ambrosia Gelato for a final bite and headed back to our home-away-from-home. I was not as tired as I had been after Thursday's day of trekking with my big camera backpack, but we did fall into bed pretty early. That was just as well, since Saturday would be a day with a different set of stress and activity.
Helen Panattoni Trotter - Celebration of Life
This Saturday was the primary goal of our Seattle trip: a memorial and celebration of life for my aunt Helen, the last of her generation in the Trotter and Panattoni families. It promised to be a day with a mix of melancholy and fun. Remembering passing is always sad, but it was a day to reconnect with relatives we may not have seen in years or decades or, for the younger folks, ever.
The properly gray-and-rainy day started with an 11:00 service at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, the Capitol Hill parish where many of the family have been anchored over the years. Father Whitney welcomed us all and offered prayers and positive reminders.
The memorial mass included prayer readings by nephews John and Tim, Niece Maryetta, and devoted daughter-in-law Kathleen. It has been awhile since I have gone to a mass, and I have mixed feelings about all the pomp and ceremony of the Catholic church, but for a memorial such as this, the familiar patterns and rituals were comforting for both regular church-goers and others.
After the mass proper, family read a series of eulogies, each giving insight into Helen's love and care for her family. Son Tom started the stories and painted a picture of a strong and resolute mom, devoted to family.
Then, grandchildren Tristan, Vince, Gia, Emmet, and Brittain gave a wonderful series of
"Grammy stories", some overlapping, and all with touching, heartfelt warmth. They ended with remembrance songs: Over the Rainbow and Que Sera, Sera.
The in-church celebration was followed with coffee and cookies from Helen's own recipes. For Marianne and me, this was a continuation of getting back up-to-speed on Trotter family events over the recent years. As with Helen's memorial generally, this held both melancholy and laughter. Cousins and spouses of cousins have had serious illnesses or, indeed, have passed away and memorials like this bring back those memories for everyone. A sad and good feeling.
The post-service cocktail hour started as soon as the cousins could make it over to Maryetta's place in Ballard. I think each of the three or four cars took a different path across Seattle, but we all arrived at about the same time. It is not an easy city to get around in, with all the bridges, lakes, and waterways, but it gave Marianne and me a chance to see some of the wonderful old neighborhoods. Most neighborhoods were in considerably better repair than when I last lived in the city, but that was 50 years ago, long before Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, Costco, and other huge employers sprang to life here.
We started off in Maryetta's kitchen, where all family gatherings start. Cousin Tom made a toast to both "the last of the first (Helen's cohort)" and "the first (cousins) of the last". Following the kitchen toast, we all settled in to more sitting and talking, about family mostly, but politics occasionally crept in. Fortunately, everyone seemed to be on the same, left, side of the political spectrum.
As the five o'clock dinner hour approached, Marianne exerted her teacher-executive control and ordered all of us away from chatting and into the cars. Of course we obeyed, and some of us even squeezed in a pose on the way out. Good for future memories.
Dinner was at Picolinos, a nearby Italian restaurant. Tom and Kathleen presided and a few more Helen stories were added for the collective memory. Good stories. Good memories.
Family conversations continued at every table. I can not vouch for other tables, but at our table we all resolved to have family gatherings more often, without the need for wakes, funerals, or memorials to shake us out of our routines. Marianne and I promised to organize a gathering in (or near) Fresno next year, before the summer heat. Sounds like a plan!
Memorial Postscript: Vince and Tom had assembled pictures of Helen's life for a slide show that showed during the reception and dinner. We all contributed and my favorite was this shot my father took at my sister's First Communion. It shows my mom, Tom's parents, and our older siblings Butch (b. Robert) and Bim (b. Auda). Tom's brother and my sister both passed too early. That, along with today's memories of the previous generation, renewed my own thoughts of mortality. Maybe everyone's, over a certain age. I suppose we all have to remember Dr. Seuss' advice: Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.
Sunday came around and I knew we needed to slow down. Family gatherings, no matter their serious purpose, feature too much food and wine. I was up early, as usual, and off to Starbucks for a few hours of picture review and diary writing. I hope I made sense.
Just across the street, setup was starting for the Ballard Farmers' Market. Slowly wandering among farm food was about all we were up for. Here are my representative pictures. No particular story except that all we did for the rest of the day was rest at home and, eventually, polish off pretzels, goat cheese, and apples. All fresh. All good.
On Monday we visited friend Barbara in the northern Seattle Shoreline district. Marianne met Barbara while teaching in Europe many years ago and they have kept in touch, in part due to sharing an interest in creative arts and crafts. The half-hour morning drive from Ballard to Shoreline was easy because the commuters were headed the other way. I lived in Shoreline in graduate school, 50 years ago, and it was way out of town at that time. Now, it's a near-in suburb.
The moment we arrived, it was like we'd been visiting every week, not just once or twice in a decade! Barb took us on a tour of her house, especially her office and craft room where she showed us the card-making that is a current focus.
We enjoyed sharing stories of far-away places, something we are reluctant to do normally. It is actually rare to talk with folks who don't glaze over after just a few minutes, but Barb showed interest and also had plenty of her own stories of working and riding bicycles in Old Europe and in the Pacific Northwest. Her curio cabinet was filled with mementos from many of those travels and she had a story for each piece. As for our stories, she had already done homework on the trotter.ws website. I am always pleased when someone has wanted to visit the site, because we do like to stay in touch, even if we can't visit in person.
After the house tour, Barb packed us in her car and we headed north to Mount Vernon and the Skagit Valley tulip growing area. We drove west of town to Roozegaarde, a farm founded in 1955 by William Roozen, where he hoped to continue his Dutch family's tulip bulb-growing heritage. That five acre farm grew to over 2,000 acres in one of the largest tulip-growing districts in the world.
I went nuts taking flower pictures. There were hundreds of colors and shapes on display. The pictures will speak for themselves.
All this flower walking and photographing had worked up and appetite, so we headed across Mount Vernon to the annual Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue. First, we inspected the grill and gave our approval to the chef's liberal use of melted butter basting. It's a food group, for heavens sake.
Inside the dining hall, we opted for the large fish meal that included 5 ounces of fish, a loaded baked potato, good coleslaw, buttered French bread, and an ice cream sandwich. What a bargain for $15.00. And it was all delicious.
In the graying skies, we left Roozegaarde for the village of La Conner, a small port on the sheltered canal that runs north toward the San Juan Islands. On this cloudy and drizzly day, we did not want to walk too much. We stopped by the Scone Lady, but the good stuff had already sold out. Oh well, better for our (non) diets.
Nearby we ducked into the La Conner Artists' Gallery. The shop has a nice selection of local work. My favorites were the very intricate copper creations by Joelene Meckstroth and one photo by Doug LeClair. I liked his story of patience as he waited for the right light as the ferry docked and the subsequent struggle in the (digital) darkroom to get the look he wanted. A good reminder for me.
Before we left the co-op gallery, Barb had Marianne bought painted gourds from artist Jill West, also examples of great patience. I think the rainy skies of the Pacific Northwest favor arts and activities that require time and patience. Except the tulip farmers, I suppose.
On Tuesday our only tasks were to eat meals, pack, drive to the airport, wait for the plane, fly to FAT, and drive home. Breakfast was at a harbor-front cafe that will remain nameless. Nothing special. The drive across Seattle was also boring, although in this case that's a good thing. Check in was painless too.
All this easy airport arrival left us with far too much time to just sit at Sea-Tac, reading and staring out the windows. I am not too sure how Marianne found blue skies for her window shot, because all I remember was gray.
On the plane, we settled in. The Embraer 175, built in Brazil, had comfy seats and I'll admit we were glad to not be questioning a Boeing 737 flight. (Seattle's local airplane builder's recent failure has even the locals asking questions.) Alaska Airlines service was good and the ninety-minute flight passed quickly. I was tired of snowy-mountain pictures, as you might be by now too.
Descending into Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley the pilot said the winds were 20 to 35 knots and the effect on the plowed farm fields was evident in the clouds of dust and dirt everywhere. This is why the area has some of the worst air-quality in the nation. At least the pilot found the runway OK.
Thirty minutes after landing, we were driving out of the parking lot. Fresno-Yosemite International Airport is a nice place to travel from, with hardly a line anywhere. Back home, things were pretty much as we had left them.
There are no particular activities planned for us for another month or so, but things do come up. I am definitely ready to give photography and this diary-writing business a break, but I know we will look forward to something new.
John and Marianne