Tag Archives: seattle

2014: See Ya

On the whole, 2014 was a good year. Rather than making a semi-structured list, I found myself thinking about two extremes — things that were absolutely delightful, and things that gave me pause for 2015.

A Year of Live Music: Four Phish shows in three states, with four newbies in tow. Animals as Leaders twice in small venues. Tony Levin with both King Crimson and Stickmen, at opposite ends of the venue spectrum. Joe Bonamassa at his best; Dream Theater at their most average but still quite good; Flux Forteana at a downtown Boston pub. Also subscribed to Concert Vault, featuring the best of “Bill Graham Presents”, which has reinforced my love of (recorded) live music.

A Year of Travel: Four visits to Prague, three to Tel Aviv/Jerusalem, a return to Seattle after 30 years, only one trip to the Bay Area, a first visit to Curacao. Discovering local food in each city (especially Seattle!) was as much fun as returning to favorite haunts. Celebrated my 52nd birthday in the oldest city in recorded history, with good friends. Prague is a new favorite place to visit and work.

A Year of Waning Fandom: For some reason professional sports just didn’t capture my interest this year. The Yankees were lukewarm from April til September; the Devils are wallowing in middle age and directionless; I have ignored professional basketball since the Nets moved out of the Meadowlands. Even my beloved Tigers failed to show on the ice or finish on the hardwood. On the other hand, youth hockey is alive and well, and I have a great group of 6 year olds who get up for 7:00 am games at outdoor rinks. A visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame taught me things about our family’s sports allegiances that I had never known.

A Year of Small Miracles: I survived a fairly bad car accident, mostly through the benefit of seat belts, air bags, and a fraction of a second. One of my fellow hockey coaches beat his leukemia into remission. The Devils signed one of my favorite players whom I’ve wished to see in the tail and horns for years (Mike Cammalleri) and then proceeded to play non-miraculous hockey. I caught a 40-pound rooster fish at the end of two days of completely quiet sport fishing.

For all of the good and positive, there were some decidedly strange moments. We stayed at the Revel in Atlantic City during the last week it was open, and then watched a third of the city’s casinos financially implode. I found myself worrying about our “adopted” Israeli daughter, when she called quite late at night during her Army service. While giving a ride to some fellow Phans for the Mann Center shows, I got the sense that if you’re in your mid-20s, it’s a hard time to be financially independent. And with the number of security events (both large scale and more personal, like fraudulent credit card charges) I think we’re looking at a year calling for more diligence and caution in all electronic interactions.

Seven For Seattle

I have been to Seattle exactly twice before: once in 1986 for a meeting of everyone involved in UCSD’s MOSIS project (small-scale VLSI fabrication for students) and once in 2001 with the Bubba for the MLB All-Star Game. Finally got to spend more than 2 nights in the Emerald City, and I have to say that it’s a place I’d revisit — Seattle gets many things “right.” Here are just seven of them:

1. On game day, everyone is a fan. Perhaps this was a function of bisecting the main walking paths to the stadium, but everyone was in their Seahawks gear – attending the game or not. Businesses have their 12th man signs up, and restaurant and store staff were dressed to cheer on Sunday.

2. Cleanliness counts. It’s the cleanest downtown area I’ve seen, probably due to the street sweepers out at 7:00am every day.

Vacuum Press at Seattle Coffee Works

Vacuum Press at Seattle Coffee Works

3. Starbucks is the mass market, coffee is the main market. I studiously avoided Starbucks in the city of its founding and instead had cold brew coffee in four different boutique shops, including a store front on Pike called “Monorail Espresso” that was so smooth that I ventured out without a jacket — twice — to grab a large one during conference coffee breaks.

Mount Ranier, as seen from the Space Needle

Mount Ranier, as seen from the Space Needle

4. Nature is literally in the backyard. The majesty of Mount Ranier is hard to escape, and only 60 miles south of Seattle proper it brings hardcore outdoors right to your doorstep. While people in the Northeast buy “outdoor gear” that might suffice for a blustery November day, Seattle outdoors folks are sealing out the elements in $500 Arc’teryx jackets that are meant for, you know, mountains. Big ones.

Pike Place Market, Seattle

Pike Place Market, Seattle

5. Public conversation works. The Pike Place Market is thriving, and not just from the “guys throwing fish” — it’s full of artisan shops, local green grocers, and buskers. Goes to show that you can combine maker culture and historical significance and produce a result that has legs and appeals to a wide range of interests beyond tourists.

6. It’s a foodie city. Start with a core of dedicated seafood places and a unique supply (Alaskan king crab, dungeness crab, coho salmon), whisk gently with the emergent restaurants in the Ballard district, season with some serious hamish burger joints, and top off with the fresh fruit and produce in the markets, and you have a foodie mecca. Where to start? Wild boar burger at 8oz Burger, possibly top ten dinner at Art Of The Table (still dreaming of grilled broccoli with preserved lemon), and fruit and vegetables that you can only dream of on the east coast? (romanescu broccoli? lobster mushrooms? medjool dates for $7 a pound?) This caught me by surprise; I figured I’d be eating salmon on a stick (which I did, but only once).

7. Comics FTW. Three different people commented on my “Coffee of Doom” t-shirt from Jeph Jacques’ Questionable Content – not only that they liked it, but knew the strip, knew the reference, and had met Jeph during one con or another. I got better sight reading from strangers on Pike Place than I did from carefully curated comic placements in my LISA talk, but that’s on me.

All in all, a fun week in a fun city. Can’t wait to come back. And I’ll be hungry (again).