Seattle, In Sum

IMG 0930 300x300 Seattle, In Sum

As I leave the city, riding an Amtrak train through picturesque hills and by placid waters, I cannot help but reflect on what was the sum, in my mind, of Seattle on my first, brief visit. Seattle is a quirky, progressive city. I cannot quite call it trendy, though some people and areas were.  There are so many random influences here, which have all seemed to leave indelible marks: Native American, Alaskan, Pioneers, Chinese Rail Workers, Sea Culture, Tech and Nerdy Culture, Industrialism, Make-it-Work Grittiness, Gold Miners, adventurous business men and a booming skid row sex industry that built the city, along with later creating a climate where drug, crime, and general skeevy-ness was rampant.

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It’s not quite tech enough to rival cities like Tokyo, not quite large and bohemian enough to rival New York or London, not quite planned enough to feel a definite theme. Yeah, I’m not sure I truly understand the culture here. It is disordered, to say the least. It probably shouldn’t work, but all-together, it does; and it seems to be doing quite well for itself.

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The people seem rather fit and active.  Somehow it seems that the people are pretty laid back and get along. I cannot tell whether or not the city feels like it’s progressing or fading away. Like Epcot at Disney World, it somehow has a distinct 90s feel. It’s something about the simple, clean lines of white pastel buildings set on the waterfront or the low-fi, doc-Martin, slightly vapid, slightly dressed-up utilitarianism.

It’s not like Counting Crows, Nirvana, or Jeff Buckley 90s, where there’s a sense of heady, emotional-ness (like you might find in a city like Portland). Seattle is like REM, Cranberries, and Live 90s. Though two sides of the same coin, Seattle just seems slightly more unemotional and European, perhaps. I think their message -whatever that might be at a given time- speaks louder in some respects, because they possess a certain hardness. Like if both Portland and Seattle were depressed, Seattle’s depression would look more like anger and it would accomplish something; and Portland’s depression, on the other hand, would be pure sadness and withdrawal. It would be more emo and result in a quirky, emotional outcry for attention.
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Seattle is a city for trendy older folks, progressive 50-60 something’s. For me, it is fundamentally lacking a pulse for which I crave in cities, a feeling of bloody, emotional rawness. About the only thing raw about the city, was the sheer number of bums, drug-addicted street people, and all other variations of this. To say the least, it was overbearing and annoying, and rather sad -both in the plight of the people and the cultural epidemic that allows for it. I think it’s a great city with many small inlets of coolness, like Capitol Hill and even Belltown. But it’s like a city of drifters and no clear residents, where there is a hint of many things, but no distinct flavor.

But maybe it’s just not for me or either I should see it as a local to know the real city. Either way, I’m now moving on. If I have an occasion to come back through Seattle, I hope to see some different things and perhaps rethink my conclusions.

Unicorn Bar – Capitol Hill – Seattle

IMG 0994 300x225 Unicorn Bar   Capitol Hill   Seattle

The Unicorn is a cool bar in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. I would suggest going simply for the ambience, if not for food and drinks. I randomly sat beside the owner, Paul. We spoke about the place, as I complimented the unique decor. He said they wanted a circus type theme. I’d say it’s like Betsy Johnson as much as circus, but I see where they were going. And I happen to really love it. Along with the EMP, it is a place of my own heart and a redeeming feature of Seattle for me.

IMG 0995 225x300 Unicorn Bar   Capitol Hill   Seattle

I was aimlessly walking around, with the vague intention of going to a Russian restaurant for dumplings (I couldn’t find that place, as it was quite inconspicuous; and I didn’t see it until I was walking back home), when I passed Unicorn and it spoke to me. So I ended up there. And I’m really glad that I did because I met Paul and the former chef, Josh, who made the menu.

IMG 0989 300x225 Unicorn Bar   Capitol Hill   Seattle

Paul was able to acquire for me a half order each of the Unicorn balls (fried ginger and jalapeño pork balls with bento ginger aioli) and Narwhal Balls (potato, swiss cheese and caraway, with harissa mayonnaise). In the Unicorn Balls, the taste of the spicy and ginger, with the pork, reminded me of something like a lamb pakora. The texture was meaty, yet not too chunky or flaky. The Narwhal Balls were delicious as well. The swiss melted beautifully with the potatoes; and the caraway was a nice touch. Both were fried in a rather light, crispy batter. All-in-all their tastiness made me contemplate the prospect of a love for fried bar foods. (I am from the south, after all, and southerners do love things fried!) And I regret that I didn’t take better photos to do them more justice.

IMG 0990 300x225 Unicorn Bar   Capitol Hill   Seattle

I also tried the original corn-dog -the house specialty, in tune with their carnival theme. It was rather good for a corn-dog, a good size, though I couldn’t eat it all after the balls. The batter was great. It tasted like sweet, moist cornbread. And the hotdog, which they make, along with the batter, in-house, was not so bad itself.

I actually had a long conversation about making sausages with Josh and Paul. Josh, with an exhaustive sausage making book in hand at the bar, now works for a specialty sausage store in Pike Place Market. And Paul, an interesting and worldly Brit who also maintains a day job, says that this place is more like a hobby for him.

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We share a fondness for occasional indulgence and excess when it comes to food, and apparently decor as well, we spoke about that and of travel in different countries of the world. He said he stops by the place typically every afternoon, but leaves when the bands start -something I came to later understand, as this evening the band on roster was a death metal group. As the noise level increased to a roar, and many goth, grunge, and hipsters filed in, I, feeling to old to be hip, decided to go home and get some rest.

Passing this interesting painting on my long walk home, I was left only to ponder how things kindred to my own heart seem to find me, or either I simply seek them out, things I would not otherwise encounter if not for my wandering.

EMP Museum – Seattle

IMG 09201 225x300 EMP Museum   Seattle

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The EMP is a museum with a genius mix of Music, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi! Not to mention the ridiculously beautiful architecture of the building! When I bought my ticket, I was asked if I’m related to Buckminster Fuller, which started a conversation about the building and architecture in general. My answer was “I wish.” And I do. He was a visionary to which we’re still catching up. But the EMP is beautiful. You could go there simply to look at the architectural forms. They are quirky, yet fluid, melding natural and unnatural colors and metals. Both the interior and exterior are worth seeing for themselves and adds a coolness to the already cool theme driving the EMP.

This is truly a museum of my own heart! If I had to make a museum for the modern age, it would very well look like the EMP. I started on the music side, where they had exhibits of Nirvana and Hendrix (couldn’t ask for a better pick).

Nirvana: Bringing Punk to The Masses:

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Some of Jimi Hendrix’s Sweet Clothes on their British Tour:

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The fantasy section is small, but packed with more things interesting and dear to me, like the periodical table of magic, and the notebooks and writing of Ursula LeGuin and George R. R. Martin (again, I couldn’t ask for two better picks).

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The Sci-fi & Horror section was rather large compared to fantasy. There were tons of movie props and costumes, sci-fi books, such as Dune, on display. And there were various pods screening early and modern horror films:

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Yes, there were quite a number of nerdy folk here, but, really, who wouldn’t want to see this place? It is awesome.

Chihuly Glass & Sculpture Garden Seattle

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This museum and sculpture garden is beautiful. Chihuly is a true artist in the medium of glass. His eye for form and color is superb. His work is both whimsical and organic. Often set amongst gardens and landscape, the fluid, often colorful forms blend into the environment almost with a zen-like seamlessly planned ease. A Washington native, his work has been shown, and is currently displayed all over the world. It can also be found in nearly every state in some museum or another. He’s perhaps the most famous living artist you’ve never heard of.

 

 

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Though I think $19 is a bit steep for such a small exhibit, if you have the money or simply want to see it on a trip to Seattle, then you should. Even if you feel like the exhibition is a bit limited, you’ll also marvel at the beauty of it. When I went, the ticket price was reduced to $14 because one gallery was closed for an event, which was fine by me because it was still somewhat visible from the garden.

 

 

So, if you’re in Seattle and you love art, especially glass art, then this is high-up on a must-see list.

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Tom Odell @ The Crocodile Seattle

The Crocodile is a cool little venue in the Belltown area of Seattle, an area with a slight yuppie vibe and much less bums than the rest of the city. The venue was a nice alternative environment, with a good mix of people. You’d see older preppy looking folks, hipsters, and younger looking kids just there for the show. I entered behind an interesting group of young people from some city I’d never heard of in Russia. The vibe was not pretentious as it so often is in trendy or hipster joints, making one feel that if you’re not 22 or on the cutting edge of the hipster scene, replete with biting, sardonic condescension that you have no business being there. No, this place is not one of those places and so it is alright in my book. However, as it nears the concert time, more young folks and staunch hipsters flooded in, encroaching on what was a chill, varied bar scene.

On an eventful note, I had brief encounters with Tom Odell’s drummer, Matt, and then later with their manager, Stuart. Matt, a proper punk British fellow, was quite nice. Tall and lanky, with aquiline nose and eyes slightly squinted, he was unique looking. For me, he did not scream Brit, but was something like Jack White, clothed in a typical throw-back look of punk rock 90s. Like me, dressed in all black, he wore a cool black leather jacket, an overcompensation that I’m not sure made him look older or younger. With ear length curly brown hair, he was a bit older than 22 year old Tom. Yet had one of those faces that I immediately like, and a nervous demeanor that was both honest and revealing of from where he comes. He was not a insensitive musician with overblown ego because of tasting fame. Both he and Stuart seemed surprisingly genuine. We talked mostly about travel and acquiring a global perspective about life. They’d just circumnavigated on tour from Europe to Asia to here. They’ll continue abroad in Australia next year.

Like the music itself, the whole band seemed rather honest and perhaps sensitive, like young people grasping at poetry and art, yet wanting to have fun and see the world while doing so. Tom’s lyrics and compositions lend an emotional indie vibe, while maintaining touches of upbeat pop in the melodies. It was all-in-all a solid show. They looked as if they were truly having fun, which I do not often see of musicians in concert while touring. Despite that they just arrived from Portland and were leaving directly after the show to drive to San Francisco, they did not appear lackluster, world-weary, or burnt out -except perhaps Stuart, who seemed a bit tired of the road, though, after-all, he is the one doing the running of the business.

“Another Love,” their most popular track, was a good live showing. The piano on stage shook as Tom got into the music, stood up at points, and bleated into the microphone as his shaggy blonde hair shrugged forward over his face. His lithe body gesticulated through his faded maroon plaid shirt, of a thin fabric that stuck to his body as the set progressed and the room heated. Online someone likened his stage presence to David Bowie. Now I’ve never seen David Bowie live, but I don’t think I’d make that reference. Maintaining the Britishness of his voice amidst interesting high, flat tones, he really sings as if he were laying out his self to the the listener and merely hoping we’d care, though it’s all really performed for himself. What I think is most appealing about both Tom and his music, is it’s simple honesty – of look, lyric, and sound. It seems to flow effortlessly and is what I think resonates with people.

I’m not exactly sure into what the band, and Tom Odell individually, will evolve with added fame. He/they could become many different things -think David Gray, Coldplay, or Nirvana, perhaps even Arcade Fire. I think they’re at the cusp of being truly big in the industry. It seems like they already have a devoted following and some critical praise. I was even chastised jokingly by some girls at the bar for explaining his music as indie pop, rather than singer-songwriter!  I’m redeemed, though, because wikipedia lists their genre as indie pop! So I was spot on.

As Matt left to take his to-go vegetarian pizza back to the tour bus, he said “it was a pleasure to meet you, Gina, I’ll see you later, perhaps.”  And perhaps I will. Stuart did put me on the guest list for their Los Angeles show on Wednesday at the El Rey Theatre. And since a friend I’d not seen in years was talking to me the whole show, I might like to see them with more attention. But even if I don’t see them there, it was interesting to have met Matt and Stuart, and I enjoyed the show.

Tom Odell and band will be on Jay Leno and Perez Hilton this week, if anyone wants to check them out.

Tom Odell – Another Love – Video

Pike Place Market Seattle


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IMG 0895 225x300 Pike Place Market Seattle

So this is the touristy place to go in Seattle. It’s a market in the central part of the city and near the water front. Yes, it was crowded and obnoxious at moments, but is a cool place that probably should not be skipped on a first visit to Seattle, given you have the time to go there and peruse the foods and wares. It seemed like the market had pretty much anything you could ask for: farm fresh produce stands (where I got some delicious dried papaya), arts and crafts stands with jewelry, leather goods, lavender bath soaps, hand dyed T-shirts, specialty dried and chocolate covered cherries, tea and crumpets, handmade kids toys; there were all kinds of specialty food shops with things like very niche Mexican and Korean grocery items; there were French and Russian bakeries (with lines around the block), specialty shops with handmade cheese, smoked salmon, local wine… I could go on and on.

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On top of all the stalls and stands in the market, and the shops surrounding it, there were many restaurants and restaurant stands, of which I indulged in a few (and as a consequence have no desire to even look at food today)!

Pike Place Chowder

This place has the self and publicly proclaimed ‘best clam chowder’ in the states. They’ve won various awards and are highly touted around media sites like Urbanspoon. Admittedly, though, they seem to be extremely touristy, as I don’t think locals in their right mind would go wait in their line simply to eat lunch there on a given day!  When I arrived at 2pm (a Saturday) the line was around the corner and took about 15min (quicker than I thought it would for the number of people in it). I got a sampler of 4 chowders and a half of a crab roll.

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Here’s my ranking and thoughts about the chowders:

1) The Scallop Chowder was my favorite of the four. It had a very buttery flavor. It was creamy with distinct notes of lemon and fresh dill. Though it only had tiny scallops, in total it was quite chunky and had a satisfying mix of bits inside.

2) The Smoked Salmon Chowder was a close second. It had a rich, somewhat smoky flavor, with a distinct tomato base flavor. It was sufficiently chunky as well. I liked the soft onions and tomatoes for a good contrast to the more robust mouth feel of the salmon.

3) The Daily Market Special came in next for me. It was a Crab Oyster Chorizo Chowder. It was very smoky. The chorizo definitely placed a major role in the flavor. In total, the flavor was almost like a smoky gouda cheese. It contained lots of small chunks like the others and was nice to have the various seafoods mixed in one.

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4) The Award-Winning New England Clam Chowder. Though this was a good clam chowder, somehow, compared to the others, it just wasn’t a favorite for me. The flavor was rather mellow, with almost sweet cream notes. There was a sufficient mix between small and large chunks of clams and potatoes. There could have been more clams for my taste. And ultimately, though a solid clam chowder, was rather uneventful for me.

The moist sourdough bread served with the chowder was quite good, though by personal preference, I enjoyed it with butter perhaps more than with the soups. Now what was most uneventful -though perhaps my expectations were simply too high, as maybe with the clam chowder also- was the crab roll.

 

5) The Crab Roll Had a bland, almost watery taste that kind of blended with and tasted somewhat like the lettuce with which it was paired. There was plenty of crab, it just had no crab flavor and left me sad that it wasn’t just plain crab instead of their crab salad concoction. The only way I could enjoy it was drenched in cocktail sauce, which is the only thing that gave it a seafood flair for me. Moreover, the French bread was a little hard for me as well. Though not completely inedible, it was a decent crab roll, it was just highly lackluster for me.

Rachel’s Ginger Beer

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An awesome idea with which more cities should follow through. Rachel travelled and lived in Europe and took that experience and things learned there to bring ginger beer to Seattle. They had various flavors of ginger beer, growlers for sale, etc. I tried the Peach, which was quite good. And I also splurged and got a Orange Ginger Beer and Vanilla Milkshake, which was delicious.

IMG 0899 300x225 Pike Place Market SeattleOther things I tried at the market: dried salmon- not very good, Beecher’s cheese curds- great! -though I hat to admit that I’ve once made better :/ Seattle wine from a local vineyard that brings the small batch delivery via a moped twice a week (I’ll have to find the name and update this), dried cherries – delicious, very moist and the best I’ve ever had, dried papaya – again, the best I’ve ever had. I’m going to try to go to the Russian bakery today. But if the line is around the black again today I can’t really justify it. I also think I might eat at a Russian restaurant tonight. For some reason I’m in the mood for eastern European food. Perhaps it’s because I know I probably won’t eat it for a long time while I’m in Asia! Or I might have Greek food. I’ll post something later about this.

About Me

I'm a recreational artist and writer who is moving from the US to work and travel in Southeast Asia starting in the Fall of 2013. I'm keeping this blog to share my thoughts and adventures. Thanks for being here. Feel free to follow my progress, post comments, and share in my adventure.

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