Had my first accident on Little Nellie this morning -- hit by a Fed Ex truck trying to take a "free left turn" through the crosswalk at 4th Ave N & Mercer, across the street from Channel 9 -- unfortunately, I happened to be occupying the crosswalk at the time.
It's a dangerous spot; even on foot I've been brushed or actually bumped by cars at several adjoining intersections along the same stretch of road. The vehicle traffic is coming from one direction, so drivers put all their focus on the cars, and hardly ever pay attention to the fact that there might be pedestrians coming from the opposite direction.
Still, this is precisely why I stopped riding mopeds a number of years ago -- that invisibility force-field that seems to appear around vehicles smaller than a Chevy Suburban can be so hazardous to one's health. But this time around I figured, Hey, I'm going to be on the sidewalk almost all the time! What could possibly happen to me on the sidewalk? Well, I've tried to be extra cautious -- I am sharing the walkways with pedestrians, and there are always blind-spots where cars pull out of driveways and what-not -- but this was a friggin' crosswalk -- and I had the right-of-way!
Anyway, no significant damage -- scrapped my knee and broke my headlight, and aside from the general achiness one usually feels after a large surge of adrenaline begins to wear off, I'm okay. Probaby be very sore tomorrow however. The paramedics (yes, 911 sent an aid truck) gave me some gauze pads to cover up my bloody patella, and even though my pulse & BP were a little high, more-or-less gave me the A-OK.
The driver was of course mortified, as well she should have been. Frankly, everybody was very lucky, including the walking pedestrian whom I essentially saved from injury by taking the hit myself. The wierd part was, he seemed almost completely oblivious, just kept right on walking as if nothing had happened. I guess some people get into their own headspace so deeply that they sort of filter out the rest of the world.
Which might be a mistake, because absorbing the kinetic energy produced by a three-ton delivery truck impacting a 190 pound body first thing in the morning can literally put a big dent in your day...
Blogcritic.org's Eric Olsen runs a piece on msnbc.com today taking on the perenneal party argument question: "What Are The 10 Greatest Rock-And-Roll Bands In History?", along with the corollary: "10 Greatest Rock Songs". Most of his choices are informed, and really hard to argue with (is anyone between the ages of 40 and 60 going to take a contrary position to The Beatles being the greatest band ever? Hardly), and he informs each of his admittedly subjective picks with strong arguments in their favor.
Especially pleasing was his selection of The Ramones; the group that single-handedly invented punk rock years before Brit entrepreneur Malcolm MacLaren put together the short-lived phenomenon that was The Sex Pistols. Another surprise was his inclusion of Bob Marley and The Wailers. While I was never a big reggae fan (although I went through a brief Peter Tosh phase in the early '80's), it's a bold, insightful choice, seeing how Marley can rightfully be considered the fountainhead for popularizing this regional music form with a world-wide audience.
Some of Olsen's favorites, however, are arguable at least so long as we're being subjective here. I only had a brief infatuation with U-2 back in the mid '80's, and probably would have opted for REM over Bono & Co.; both bands are products of the post-punk art-music movement of the early '80's, spearheaded by bands like Talking Heads and Pere Ubu, and both bands have a proven longevity that matched their creative capacity.
Also, I may be one of the few native West Coasters who just never clicked with The Grateful Dead. While one certainly can't dismiss the band's overall contribution to pop music culture, I'd be hard pressed to name more than two or three songs that actually had any kind of significant impact outside of their rather narrow fan base; Truckin. is actually the only Dead title that comes immediately to mind.
Interestingly, one of my choices appears in the article's sidebar "Also Rans" poll. Between their 1965 debut and their final studio album, 1982's "It's Hard", Townshend, Daltrey, Entwistle and Moon were the perfect blending of The Rolling Stones' sexual swagger, filtered through The Beatles' somewhat bland boy-next-door image, coming out the other side as any parent's worst nightmare; the seemingly innocuous, pimple-ravished kid from down the block who suddenly shows up one night on a motorcycle to take your daughter God-knows-where. They represented every adult's most vile expectation of Reckless Youth, revelled in the image, and like all true pioneers pushed much farther to the edge than was good for them.
Sly And The Family Stone is, in my mind at least the only truly misplaced member of Olsen's group. While briefly popular in their day, it's hard to place their musical accomplishments higher than say, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Blue Oyster Cult, The Clash, Public Enemy, The E Street Band, Earth, Wind & Fire, heck even Van Halen for that matter has a creative and performance longevity that far outstrips Sly and Co.
Then there are his song selections.
No "Louie, Louie"?
"I Want To Hold Your Hand" gets mention over "Twist & Shout"?
"Like A Rolling Stone" is a toss-up, but I probably would have picked "Subterranian Homesick Blues" (arguably the seminal rap song), if I was putting a Dylan song on my list.
Marvin Gaye is also a tough one to argue against, but I would think if you're going into Soul territory, you'd also have to seriously consider Otis Redding's "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay", Smokey Robinson's "The Tears Of A Clown", or The Supremes' "Love Child" as worthy contenders.
And Puhleez! Don't even get me started on OutKast. Geez, why not just go with another "flavor of the month" band like Blink 182, Matchbox 20 or Korn, any one of them would do just as well. I'll take anything in the Who Discography over one of these, or perhaps even Rush, Motorhead, X -- I mean the possibilities are just endless!
But then, I'm sure you-all have your own opinions on the subject. We'll hash it out over beers the next time we meet.
Okay, here's the plan: With "The Red Ranger" (my 1975 VW campervan) in the shop for the next 10 - 14 days, I decided that I needed an alternate method of transportation, aside from my two flat feet and being at the mercy of Seattle's dependable, but not terribly convenient public transit system. Something that could get me back and forth to work in a reasonable time, that would allow for slightly longer jaunts to areas just outlying the City Core, and that wouldn't cost a small fortune to purchase or operate.
I seriously considered buying a used moped, but evidentally the market on these things is tremendous; I've owned cars that cost less than what some of these little guys are reselling for. And a new one is out of the question; at $2,000 minimum for a decent moped, I might as well just buy another car. Besides, my first fleeting experience with these vehicles was both a physical and financial disaster; perhaps today they're common enough for people to actually be aware of them, but 10 years or so ago it was like you were wrapped in some sort of moving Invisibility Field. After getting hit TWICE by cars either pulling out of driveways or making right-hand turns, I decided that whatever my choice would be, it would definitely NOT involve something that would result in bodily injury from ignoramus drivers.
What to do then? Well, flipping through the Sunday paper a couple of weeks ago, I came across this little beauty:
In typical Geek Fashion, I've given her a name,
"Little Nellie" (It's a cranky link, so hit "refresh" if you get a blank screen.)
Okay, laugh if you must but check out these stats:
Weight: - 45 lbs.
Top Speed: - 20 mph
Engine: - 22 cc Mitsubishi 2-stroke engine
Gas Mileage: - 30 miles per tank (approximate capacity .4 Gal, so that works out
to roughly 75 miles per gallon!)
Basically, I can get from boat to office in around 10 minutes, stay on the sidewalk, hang a bag of groceries on the handlebars and commute to work for two full weeks at the equivalent cost of 1 1/2 round-trips on the bus.
Well, geez ya lazy bum, why'nt ya jes' walk ta woik? Well, that's a fair question, and indeed I plan to make that an integral part of my commute, along with occasional bus trips as the weather demands. BUT, there are days, when I either need to be at work a bit early, or days when I want to sleep in a bit longer, and this gives me the option to still get to work faster than either my feets or the Metro fleet can do the job.
So, now I'll be able to let The Ranger sit out these annoying, piddly little commuting trips and save wear-and-tear on expensive mechanical parts, save money, not to mention severely reducing my contribution of pollutants and greenhouse gases.
Plus, I figure that by mid-summer when gas prices top over $3.00 a gallon, and the rest of you are waiting in those long, long lines on your designated odd-or-even day just like back in the 1970's to get your ration, cursing the fact that you got suckered into spending 40 grand on this 12 mph piece of crap SUV that now costs you half a day's pay just to fill up, I'll be the one grinning and waving as I zip by like a mosquito on steroids.
Well, its now official. Despite several weeks of incredible effort on the part of a whole host of people, the production of William Mastrosimone's Nanawatai! that I was supposed to direct has been postponed until possibly sometime later this summer or early fall. It was a difficult decision on the part of A Theatre Under The Influence to put off the show, but given the exhausting experience they just went through with their production of Sarah Kane's Blasted, it's really no surprise. They're burnt-out, and they need time to regroup before tackling another major project head-on.
Here's the story in a nutshell: Influence announced last summer that Nanawatai! was going to be on their season, and I immediately threw my hat into the ring to direct it; I first read it probably 12 years or so ago, when I was doing another Mastrosimone play in Spokane, and immediately thought it was a great script, but I just couldn't imagine HOW it could be realized (the centerpiece of the play is some representation of a Soviet T-72 tank -- onstage). So, I was truly excited about the fact that Influence, a company that specializes in underproduced works by noted playwrights didn't seem intimidated by this problem. As things turned out, another director was selected for the show, and I was asked to serve as dramaturg. So, since December I've been collecting information, and putting it together into something to present to the designers, director and eventually the cast.
About six weeks or so ago, I got a call from David Nochimson, Influence's Production Manager informing me that the director had bowed out and would I be willing to take over? Well, I thought about it for all of about six nanoseconds before agreeing. At that point the show had not been fully cast, and with the exception of an Assistant Director, none of the production staff positions had been filled. So, I immediately began the process of putting together a team, and completing casting -- which even as of last night I'm sorry to say wasn't 100% done. Costumers for example seem to be in very high demand and of the four or five I personally contacted, none were available.
Meanwhile, Influence was set to open another show, Blasted at their space on Capital Hill on the 20th of February, and that very same day the Seattle Fire Dept. decided to do their annual building inspection. Okay, some things needed to be fixed, and most were taken care of that day, but then they did a follow-up at 7:00 p.m. (the show was scheduled to start at 8!) and essentially told the folks, "either this stuff (major portions of the set for one) gets cleared up or we shut you down". So, mad scramble to comply -- which amazingly they did -- and the show opened.
Everything's cool, right? Well, after the Rhode Island rock club fire last year, fire departments across the country are getting antsy about public assembly issues, and Union Garage (where the show was performing) became one of the "casualties". SFD determined that unless substantial upgrades were made to the building (price tag= anywhere from $20K to $100K+) were not made immediately (!) occupancy for public assemblies would be limited to 49 people, and the back space (the larger of the two in the venue, where Blasted was performing) was off-limits.
Now, keep in mind this is a shoddy old garage owned by a landlord who has been nice enough in their way, but who has the tenants on a month-to-month lease, and despite offers of support from the City, County, and granting organizations, nobody in their right mind was going to sink the kind of cash into the building without some sort of long term committment (say 5 - 10 years) from the owner. So, the only options were: 1.) move the show to the significantly smaller front space; 2.) find another venue to move it to; or 3.) close the production half-way through its scheduled four-week run. Luckily Intiman Theater stepped up to the plate and offered their space for the show. Then, it was a matter of getting clearance from the stagehand's union (which is another whole story in itself), physically moving the entire production, and then getting word out to the press and community about the change.
Amazingly, and with more than a few roadbumps along the way, all this happened, and as we say in this biz, "The show must (did) go on." Blasted closed Saturday night and we disassembled the set Sunday afternoon.
Immediately before doing so, however, Influence held a company meeting, where they made the decision to postpone my show until a suitable venue could be found.
Certainly it was a disappointment to the cast, who were put in the unenviable position of showing up for what they expected to be their first rehearsal, only to be given the news that -- for the time being at least -- it would also be their last. Even with the burden of awaiting a decision removed from my shoulders, I still feel a little guilty about keeping them in the dark so long, but the fact of the matter was that WE were all in the dark for almost the same length of time. Things literally went down-to-the wire in terms of finding an alternate venue (even though it would have still meant pushing the show back about four weeks), but the Seattle Center ultimately threw the sabot that prompted Influence's decision by putting a hold on the venue we were considering that fell smack in the middle of our run.
Still, I have to admire and respect their willingness to see our side of the situation, and I got the impression after our meeting last night that many of them still feel committed to doing the show, whenever it happens. In fact, they even suggested that we get together periodically to read the script, and do some of the preliminary 'table work" before an actual schedule is re-established, which I have to admit made me feel very positive about their sense of professionalism and willingness to see the project through; it's one of the things that makes me proud to be a member of this community, and I hope, for all our sakes that we get another shot at it.
Keep your fingers (and eyes and toes and anything else) crossed.
(We may be a little hard to see at this resolution -
follow the left tine of the "Y" to where it intersects
the line made by the arrow's point and you'll see
a tiny speck of light -- remember to smile and wave!)
There's a big gaping hole along the shoreline on the north end of Lake Union, directly across the water from where my own little floating home lies. Yesterday morning, a couple of tugs hooked on to the former Washington State Ferry, Kalakala and towed her though the locks, out of the lake and into the open waters of Puget Sound, bound for a slip on the Makah Tribal Reservation at Neah Bay on the northern tip of the Olympic Penninsula.
Once the pride of the State Ferry System, and for most of her active life the veritable symbol of the City of Seattle, Kalakala has spent the past five years sitting literally in limbo, while a group of dedicated individuals attempted to raise the $10 - $12 million required to undertake a full renovation of the cherished vessel.
Built in 1936 out of the remnants of her previous incarnation, the steam-powered ferry Peralta, she was truly one-of-a-kind; a streamlined, gleaming example of the art-deco style of combining both form and functionality. Although she was said to ride like a bucking bronco under full speed, her graceful, curving superstructure made her look like her namesake, the "Swift bird" of Duwamish Indian mythology.
Although she was out-of-service nearly 20 years before I permanently set down in Seattle, she was a much loved, much missed, and much remembered fixture of local history. Status as a "native" often was predicated on among other things having ridden the art-deco leviathon, and up until the construction of The Space Needle for the 1962 World's Fair, whenever someone brought up the subject of visiting Seattle, often she was one of the first things people remembered.
In 1984, a local sculptor by the name of Peter Bevis was wandering the docksides of Kodiak Alaska when he spotted the rusting hulk of the Kalakala mired in the mud, having spent the previous 20 years being used as a converted fish cannery. Abandoned by her previous owners, who had gone out of business, gutted of its once famed interior furnishings, the derelict was about to be cut up for scrap when Bevis came to her rescue.
It took Bevis and a dedicated group of volunteers 14 years to purchase, clean, repair, repaint, and make the once proud boat seaworthy for a planned return voyage to the Puget Sound, and on 6 November 1998 she was paraded into Elliott Bay accompanied by a flotilla of sail, power and working boats, in an atmosphere that was tinged with equal portions of nostalgia and hope for her future. Bevis and the non-profit foundation he helped established planned to refurbish her to her former glory, then use the vessel as a floating museum, meeting space and perhaps even an elegant restaurant.
Alas, the initial enthusiasm generated by Kalakala's return didn't translate into donations, and eventually she was moved from her berth at Pier 66 on the downtown waterfront to the north end of Lake Union, where she languished for the next four years until Bevis and his group was forced to abandon their ambitious scheme and put her up for auction. Potential buyers included a San Francisco entrepreneur (who planned to haul her south and convert her into a tourist attraction at Fisherman's Warf), but through a convoluted series of events, Olympia businessman Steve Rodrigues finally ended up with the papers, and yesterday morning he began the long trek from Seattle to Neah Bay, where he plans to continue restoration work, with the eventual goal of turning her into a waterfront attraction somewhere on the Puget Sound.
I'm going to miss the old girl; she was a fixture on the Lake for my entire time here. Even in her somewhat ignoble condition, she still carried a sense of style and dignity in her graceful lines and gleaming hull, despite the splotches of rust and weathered paint that only covered but never diminished her beauty. On sunny days, she was the half-way point in a good hour-long kayak back-and-forth across the lake, when there was always time to take a leisurely circuit around and beneath her jutting main deck, like a tiny moth attracted to a 10,000 watt Kleig light.
I hope I'll be lucky enough to see her make yet one more triumphant return, this time completely restored to her former magnificence, the flying bird once again taking wing across the grey waters of Elliott Bay. And when she does, hopefully, I'll still have my own little floating home from which to follow in her wake, to welcome her home again.
(To learn more about Kalakala the foundation's website is still active.
Hard to believe it's still officially winter, especially when we in the Upper Left Hand Corner have record-shattering days like yesterday; 65 and sunny is the sort of weather we get around here in July, not early March. Of course in typical Pacific Northwest fashion, today it's wet, wet, wet, while the forecast for tomorrow is -- sunny again.
It's the sort of nature-induced schizophrenia that can drive less acclimated persons a bit bonkers. Like someone you've been dating for two or three years who just can't make a commitment, our meteorological inconsistency has been known to turn Californians, Floridian, Texans and even people from Minnesota or South Dakota into drooling, red-eyed ghouls. Part of it is probably caused by the constant sense of uncertainty, in not knowing how many layers to put on, whether to go with the Himilayan Expedition Gortex outer shell or the lighter breathable polyester, in having to decide whether to pocket the sunglasses or crook the umbrella under your arm, but always compounded by the dread Cassandra-like premonition that regardless of which choice you make it will inevitably be the wrong one.
For those of us born into these naturally bi-polar weather cycles, even this latest bout has us, if not exactly running around like turkeys in a rainstorm, beaks agape at whatever it's doing outside this minute, at least a little flummoxed. Rain we can handle. Days, weeks, occasionally even month-long drizzly deluges that leave the entire world gray and sodden and smelling vaguely of mildew even outside. But even we natives can get a little ditzy when confronted with the prospect of alternating days of rain-then-sun or worse, single days where the weather changes so drastically from one moment to the next that any attempt to dress for it results in confusion and a growing feeling of grumbling resentment that Mother Nature just won't make up her mind. Planning to walk to work today? Forget it -- too wet. Bright sunshine hurting your eyes? You know those Ray Bans were lying around here somewhere -- back in August. Tired of wearing so many layers to cover every possible contingency that you end up looking like that little kid from "A Christmas Story" who when he falls down just lays on the ground thrashing about like an upended turtle? Well, plan on it for another couple of months, kiddo.
I suppose some of the more sanguine among us are able to simply enjoy the brief moments of clement weather for what they are -- teasing glimpses beneath the folds of a drab down comforter revealing bit of tanned, shapely calf, like a burlesque queen doing a hoochy-kootchie dance on the carnival midway. There's just enough showing to pique your interest, to get the blood flowing in anticipation, but not so much that you feel satisfied that you've seen all there is to see. The frustration comes in knowing that there's always more than meets the eye, that the whole thing is just charade intended to string you along, to pull another dollar out of your pocket for a second peek in the hopes that maybe this time the feather will inadvertantly fall, the balloon will accidentally pop, revealing more than you have any right to expect.
This was one all of us in the theatre community have been awaiting with dreadful expectation ever since his disappearance was reported in early January. Spalding Gray was a superb storyteller as well as an accomplished actor; the sort of performer other actors admire for his ability not only to convey the essence of a role or character, but perhaps even more so for his unflinching honesty in looking inside himself. Anyone who say him perform one of his monologues live couldn't help but be moved both by the content as well as its expression. He was quite simply an actor's actor who brought a sense of quiet dignity to even his most personally intimate revelations.
"In America, the Corporations first outsourced the software engineers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a software engineer. Then they outsourced customer and technical support, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't in CS or TS. Then they outsourced the manufacturing lines, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't in manufacturing. Then they outsourced the accountants, but I didn't speak up because I was in Admin. Then they outsourced my job, and by that time there was no one left to speak for me."
What could be more quintessentially Seattle than spending a Sunday afternoon lolling in the sunshine on the deck of your boat, drinking Starbucks, while reading an article about Pioneer Square bookseller David Ishi, with KPLU's "The Art Of Jazz" playing on the stereo?