Archive for the 'In my city' Category

Taking a long view of things

Since the last time I posted about something besides birds, I have taken scores of pictures of birds, hundreds of pictures of birds. I’ve been taking the camera to work almost every day and rushing over during my lunch hour to the longer of the two beaches in the state park and, after shooting the juvenile and adult eagles and the great blue herons and any unusual looking waterfowl there, pressing onward beyond the beach to the boardwalk that winds through the woods of alder and cottonwood and fir along the mouth of Issaquah Creek, where depending on the season I am likely to see the red-breasted sapsucker picking at his small tidy rows of holes in tree trunks, or the pileated woodpecker or the rufous hummingbird or the ruby-crowned kinglet or the Western tanager or the pair of cedar waxwings, then even further to the muddy spit at the end of the walk, where the creek empties into the lake and where there are likely to be hooded mergansers or common mergansers or mallards or Canada geese or Northern shovelers dabbling or diving in the brown water or a lone chattering belted kingfisher or a quiet and near-motionless green heron sitting above the creek on a shaded branch, waiting to dart headfirst into the water to bring up a fish in its beak, and always lots of tree swallows and the odd cliff swallow or barn swallow (I’m not sure which) swooping and dipping in crazy loops and often a bald eagle or two in the tall bleached snag on the creek’s far side, surveying the fishing grounds beyond the patches of cattails on the lakeshore, where a redwing blackbird often can be heard piping out its zinc-plated call. I have taken photographs of almost all of these, and good ones of some of them, and photographs of one or two that I think are remarkable. The camera’s SD card keeps getting so full of photographs of birds that I have to go through and delete the duds, which is 90 percent of them.

Western tanager. This is not about that.

Western tanager. This is not about that.

But this is not a post about birds, or about photographs of birds. Yesterday, for reasons unimportant, I had no way home from work but to ask a coworker to drive me across Lake Washington into downtown Seattle, where I planned to catch a bus north. He let me off where I could catch a bus directly home, but it was such a wonderful day that I texted Angela that if she could work it she should grab the girls and come meet me at the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner, the which she happily did.

The Old Spaghetti Factory is at the other end of town from where I was, so I set out hoofing it, and while I threaded my way through old familiar streets I dug out the camera and started looking around. I only had the long lens with me because I always need to be zoomed in closer when I’m shooting birds. In fact you can never get quite zoomed in enough when you’re trying to photograph a bird. But in the city, the long lens is immediately a liability for most kinds of photos most of us want to take most of the time. We want to get a wide view that captures things, discrete things like buildings, in their entirety, but the long lens slices out parts of things and places them next to parts of other things, and shrinks the spaces that separate them so that objects seem coupled in unusual ways and often even mashed together. With the long lens in the narrow confines of city streets, you cannot get far enough away from anything to capture all of its bounds, so you have to look at the pieces and see what you can put together in the frame. I thought about that as I walked, and wondered what I could do using only the long lens.

I found it exhilarating to be surveying the hard edges of the city again after so many months scouring the ungridded wilds of the state park. The afternoon was hot like an August day only without that Augustine sadness — the air of late May is still full of scent and movement and energy — and the bright sunlight ran ahead of me cutting things in two and searching out nooks and narrows. I was beside myself with glee as I kept stopping to test a view through the camera’s viewfinder, or waiting for a pedestrian to put herself in just the right place or for a bus to get out of the way of a man sitting on the sidewalk. I don’t get to be in the city very often anymore. It used to wear me out after five workdays and I couldn’t wait to get away from it, but working out in the boondocks (which what with freeways and air traffic and construction are no quieter) I have really missed the visual pleasures of the urban built environment.

I took a photography class once, and of all the things the teacher said about this and that, I remember one thing most clearly. He described four different statements that progressively expressed what he considered a better way to imagine what photography is about. I don’t remember them all, but I remember that the first and least interesting statement was “I was there and I took this picture of it,” and that the last and most interesting statement was “I experienced such and such and I made this image of it,” the difference in engagement and creative effort being evident in the phrase “made this image”.

In that spirit, then, here are a poet’s dozen of “the images I made” yesterday when I experienced the city at street level, on foot, from King Street Station at the south end to the Old Spaghetti Factory at the north end with only my long lens to help me see with. A couple of them are revisitations to scenes I’ve shot before. They are not great exposures, but in each of these images I see things that meet or come near each other in interesting ways or create some sort of internal, visual rhyme or even something that simply amuses me or pleases my eye. As an example, the one of the man sitting alone on the waterfront has several mammoth industrial cranes in the background, virtually all turned toward him, but they don’t seem able to lift him out of the heavy place he’s in. In another, two triangular buildings seem to be facing off, their argument refereed by a larger, squarer building standing between them. In yet another, a highrise condo with doors that rarely open serves as a backdrop for a door left wide open high up in a steam plant. Not all of them are allegorical; one simply has more people in it than you might initially see. But there’s some thought or feeling in each that is brought out by the compressive quality of the long lens. Maybe you’ll see something I didn’t. If you do, let me know. I just now — only now — noticed that in one image I framed for a completely different reason, the yellow signs mimic two men crossing the street.

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The Balls of Bothell II

One of my early posts was called The Balls of Bothell. The Balls, Darl and Jeannine, lived for many many years on a curve of the busy road that runs around the north end of Lake Washington. I never met them, but like thousands or even millions of people traveling on Wasthington State Route 522 (called Bothell Way on that stretch), my wife and I had become familiar and even attached to their wooden sign, which we looked for and verbally celebrated every time we came around the curve in the highway where we knew it waited to announce their habitation at that place. It said “The Balls of Bothell” in big gold letters, and then in smaller letters beneath that it said “Darl and Jeannine”.

The sign hung from a post at the bottom of the Balls’ driveway. It was there for ages and then one day it was gone. I wrote a blog post about the sign and about our experience of the sign, and wondered what kind of people the Balls were and whether they were aware of how time and the increase in traffic on that once quiet country road had rendered strange such an exuberantly personal and inviting sign. (You know me…just wondering.) I didn’t have a photo of the sign to go with that post, and at the time I had no reason to think I’d ever see it again.

I think the Balls' sign hung about where this new post is. It was a few yards back from the road but the road was not as wide then.

I think the Balls’ sign hung about where this new post is. It was a few yards back from the road but the road was not as wide then. The curve is known locally as Wayne Curve.

If you go to that post and read through the comments that readers posted, you’ll see that old Darl himself eventually got wind of my post and logged in to give a shout out to all his fans, reporting that he still had the old sign and the sad news that Jeannine had passed on a few years earlier. I made a mental note to track him down and ask him if I could come look at the old board and take some photos of it, but I never got around to doing it.

Darl Ball, 1926 - 2013

Darl Ball, 1926 – 2013

Then Darl died, a fact I learned in those same comments when his relatives and friends started turning up and leaving little eulogies to him and Jeannine. One of those people was Darl’s nephew, Bradley Mitchell, who goes by Mitch and in conversation calls his uncle simply “Ball”. Mitch commented to let me know the sign had come to him and that if I wanted to see it I should come over to his home in Kirkland soon, because he was preparing to ship the sign to some relatives out of state who had the Ball surname.

I visited Mitch this past June. He is an interesting character in his own right, having himself many times been the subject of magazine and newspaper articles and television segments because of his large collection of deep sea diving gear and other marine equipment, many specimens of which fill his home. In the relatively small world of deep sea diving gear hobbyists, I’m sure his is a household name. But he clearly lives in a state of constant and enduring admiration of the man he calls simply “Ball,” and while he commented with very few words about anything related to his own celebrity, he was fairly verbose about his uncle’s life and times, and had dragged out for my perusal numerous photos and several paper artifacts from his uncle’s days in the Merchant Marine (Certificate of Efficiency to Lifeboat Man, serial number B71663; Certificate of Service to Able Seaman, serial number A120679; and a temporary American passport issued by the American consul at the East African port city then known as Laurenço de Marques, now Maputo in the People’s Republic of Mozambique).

Young Darl and his Merchant Marine buddies.

Young Darl (far left) and his Merchant Marine buddies.

I took several photos of the photographs he laid out. I spent an hour with him during which he said a lot of things that I did not write down and which I cannot now remember. I do recall him noting several times that Ball joined the Merchant Marine even though he couldn’t swim a stroke. That single fact seemed to represent the very gizzard of the man for Mitch. He also told me, something that may be of interest to history, that his was the third sign the Balls hung, that two others had been stolen over the years. I can’t remember if he said the earlier ones were smaller or larger, but I think they were not all of the same dimensions. It’s my opinion that when the stolen ones eventually turn up in some garage or at a flea market, they should be given to the City of Bothell for museum pieces.

You can read about Mitch in this April 7, 2007 Seattle Times article, and if you catch up with Mitch you can ask him all about his Uncle Darl, how the man went to Texas or someplace to buy a large piece of construction equipment — a crane, I think — and drove the thing all the way back to Seattle to use in the landscape business he’d started after the war. I would have liked to be able to relate more of what Mitch told me about him, since I had openly wondered about the Balls in my earlier post, but it wasn’t the right time and I was not on my reporter game.

Nevertheless, my main purpose was fulfilled; I got to see the sign again, which was much larger than I had remembered. And because I know there are so many out there who remember it fondly, I provide a couple of pictures of it herebelow, with thanks to Bradley Mitchell for letting me take them and use them.

Mitch Bradley.

Mitch.

Sign Number Three.

Sign Number Three.

Update 29 May 2014: This story never seems to come to an end. People keep commenting on the original Balls of Bothell post. Someone commented today, actually a comment addressed to Mitch (shown above) not to me. But it got me curious, so I did some googling and found a Bothell Reporter obituary for Jeannine that included a small photo of her, which I include herebelow. I don’t have any rights to the material, but I’m claiming “educational purposes”. I thought people might like to see a photo of one of the principles in this strangely ongoing tale. There’s also a Facebook page called “You know you’re from Bothell if…”, where the facilitator posted one of the above photos of the sign, and the comments it drew are very interesting and enlightening. One old Bothellian recalls that a photo of the sign made an appearance on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show or David Letterman’s Late Night. Also, almost unbelievably, the first “Balls” sign was made by a person named Cox.

Jeannine Ball

Jeannine Ball

Jeannine Ball, 81, passed away quietly in her sleep on Tuesday, September 22, 2010 surrounded by those she loved. Those who loved her know her long battle with illness is over and she is at peace. Jeannine will be remembered for her loving spirit, caring nature, and bright sparkling eyes. A friend to all, she lived in the Bothell area for nearly 40 years. She was an avid gardener who loved her roses and dahlias along with the birds and wildlife they attracted. Jeannine’s indomitable spirit and never-ending sense of humor were an inspiration to all. She leaves behind three daughters, Bobbie Metters, Debbie Rayburn (Buck) and Charnell Morud (Doug) and six grandchildren: Jayson, Katherine, Charles, Tessa, Carey, and Evan. Sisters Jorgia Irish, Sandra Winterburn (Victor) and their families, as well as former husband and friend, Darl Ball, are with her in spirit. All will miss her dearly but rejoice in having shared her life. Jeannine knew the true meaning of love. Her legacy is that she shared so much of that love with her family, friends and everyone she encountered. Services were held Thursday, September 30 at Purdy & Walters at Floral Hills in Lynnwood. To view the everlasting memorial visit http://www.dignitymemorial.com. Remembrances may be made to Meals on Wheels or other services for seniors.
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Following the obituary’s trail, I also found her archived remembrance page on the Dignity Memorial website, where a gallery preserves several dozen pictures of Jeannine taken throughout her life, from childhood to her last days. One of them — and again, I have no rights to it so tell me if it is yours and you don’t want it up here — is this wonderful image:

The infamous pair and their infamous sign. Oh the glee!

The infamous pair and their infamous sign. Oh the glee!

New gargoyle post over on GSGH

I’ve stopped posting the Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt images and solutions here. I have (at least for the nonce) slowed down with my more personal writing and it was starting to feel to me as though the GSGH posts were taking over my blog.

So I’ve created a separate blog for the GSGH (actually, I did this a while ago), which is here.

There’s a new gargoyle posted there for all of you bloodthirsty hunters. There isn’t any “comment community” over there so it’s kinda lonely, but it’s gotten pretty quiet over here too lately, and anyway I do monitor that blog so if you play you will still be acknowledged. However, I’ve designed it so that the hunt entries will always be separate from their solution entries so that any future inhabitants of earth can play the already solved GSGHs. They just won’t get limericks.

GSGH #12 solution

I thought that Gargoyle #12 might keep even Issy occupied for a while since its location is a little bit off the beaten path of my usual wanderings, but she pegged it as the Eagles Auditorium on the northeast corner of Seventh Avenue and Union Street. Here’s a wider shot of the eagle that posed for our original hunt post:

The west entrance to what is now called Kreielsheimer Place, just one of its many names.

This is another building I have zilcho history with, and in fact I only noticed the decorative eagle on it for the first time when I was out one day shooting city fountains for our Aqua Urbana tour. That doesn’t mean the building doesn’t have any history, and in fact it has been “as busy as Issy” since its completion in 1926, if you’ll allow the minting of a new phrase.

The old Eagles Auditorium has housed A Contemporary Theater since 1995.

The building now is called Kreielsheimer Place and houses ACT Theater (sic), which, because people have always insisted on appending the word “theater” to its acronym, has given in to common usage and must now pretend that its acronym does not mean anything, or at least that it does not already include the word ‘theater’ — an untenable turn of events for the dwindling race of strict grammarians, equivalent to a normal person’s zombie apocalypse.

The hall in earlier days, around 1926. This is the southwest corner of the building, or the northeast corner of Seventh and Union. Image property of Museum of History and Industry.

But where were we? Oh yes, we were about to go back in time. But I’ll let the National Park Service repeat what’s on their “Seattle: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary” web page, since it’s so evocatively told:

On February 6, 1898, a group of theater managers met to discuss some business matters. The men decided to take a walk along the tide flats, and upon reaching the shipyards, settled upon some pilings, where the conversation took a philosophical turn. Combining their ideas on democracy and brotherhood, it was decided that an organization should be formed to reflect this spirit, an organization called the “Seattle Order of Good Things.” Later renamed the “Fraternal Order of Eagles,” the society’s constitution asked its members to “make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness, and hope.”

I don’t know anything about the Eagles, except that I met and danced with my wife at a folk dance in a hall that they built in Ballard, so for that reason alone they’re okay in my book. I find the above vignette actually very moving and while I know that some of these fraternal organizations surround themselves in great secrecy and wear funny hats and develop secret handshakes and assume austere titles for themselves, I think if they’re also achieving in any measure the goals they set for themselves in their original constitution then they’ve done well.

Eight hundred members of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) raise their hands in a yea vote to continue a strike in 1937. For the naysayer behind his hat in the front row, his vote is something he'd rather not have his neighbors find out about in the morning paper, a reminder that extraordinary courage used to be required of ordinary people at regular intervals. Image property of Museum of History and Industry.

The building was, I think, a hotel at some point called the Senator, although I have no more information than that and don’t know when that might have been. In the 1950s it passed into the hands of the Unity Church of Truth, which did its thing there until 1960, and from the mid-’60s until 1970 it hosted many musical acts, including Leon Russell, the Grateful Dead, John Mayall and Jethro Tull.

Here’s a shot of the avian decoration above the south-facing entrance on Union. Thanks again for playing, Issy. Every time you (or anyone else) win one of these hunts, I learn something about my town I didn’t know before.

This Eagle is slightly smaller and its wings are stretched out to its sides rather than upward.

GSGH #13 winner limerick

I’ve been really busy lately (in a good kind of way) and I haven’t even done the solution post for Gargoyle #12 yet, but I promised Issy another limerick for #13 so I thought I’d best get to it. Our resident slayer has put up two more crisp wins. Gargoyle #13 turns out, as Issy rightly declared, to be on the Caroline Kline Galland Building on the southwest corner of Second Avenue and University Street.

Gargoyle #13. I included some of the building's name because I had thought this hunt would be harder.

Although I have taken a few photos of it both intentionally and incidentally I know almost goose-egg about this structure. The only history I have with it is that I fell in love with a painting called “Oakley Doakley” by Idaho artist Jerri Lisk, which hung until it was sold in the Patricia Rovzar Gallery, which occupies the corner space at the street level. (The gallery rotates its artists and it just happens that Lisk is the featured artist again as I write this, so if you’re curious you can stroll by and have a look at her style.)

One of Seattle's early steel-frame buildings. Not having to rely on brick or stone for load bearing enabled exterior walls with larger windows. Hey, perfect for art galleries!

What’s in the name? The Bavarian-born Caroline Roseberg wed two men, first the successful Seattle clothier Louis Kline and then the retired successful San Francisco merchant and Seattle philanthropist Bonham Galland, outliving both of them. She had Max Umbrecht design this little investment for her, supposedly in 1906, though I can’t figure out why, if that’s really the date of design, the lions’ medallions clearly announce “1905”, unless building supply companies sold year-old lions back then the way shops sell day-old loaves of bread.

The Caroline Kline Galland Building shortly after it was completed, with the kind of massive overhanging cornice that invariably seemed like a bad idea after an earthquake. The construction date is listed on records as 1906, but the lions and I have our doubts. Image courtesy of University of Washington Libraries.

Ms. Galland died childless only a year or two after the building was completed, and all of her many real estate holdings — except this building — were sold to fulfill her wish that her wealth “may bring to the lives of the aged men and women … the greatest degree of contentment and happiness in their declining years.” Annual income from the Galland building was used to build the Caroline Kline Galland Home for the Aged and Feeble Poor, which, according to a Samis Land Company document I dug up from 2007, was at that time still operating in Seward Park and still equipped to care for 205 residents. The document is here and it includes a lot of interesting old photos which are unfortunately very low resolution, but it’s still worth a look.

This angle from a parking tower up the street shows the top floor with its outdoor patio. I can't tell from earlier photos if this was original or added later. If anyone knows, say.

It’s no surprise to me that this building turns out to be a Samis building. Sam Israel bought the building in 1969 from the trustees of Galland’s estate, the Seattle Title and Trust Company. I wonder if it was because like Galland, Israel was a philanthropist who had a passion for helping fellow Jews. I once heard this about Sam Israel, though I don’t know how true it is or isn’t: he bought up a lot of old properties in Seattle and sat on them. He didn’t improve or update the properties but he wouldn’t sell them either, which made developers crazy in the 1960s when they were tearing down the old brick and stone city to build a new one in sleek concrete. I heard that he’d keep the roofs in good repair to protect the investment, but he was deaf to tenant complaints and appeals for other improvements. He channeled the rent money from his properties into charities that benefited Jews and the nation of Israel.

It's kind of an odd duck, really, Chicago at the front with some winking Frank Lloyd off the side of the top. From this angle, the top floor looks integral to the original design. Someone please invite me up.

During Israel’s later years, the old properties around his were all torn down and the lots redeveloped and the streetscape of Seattle changed gaggingly for the worse, but the buildings Israel owned are now civic treasures. Thank you Sam for your miserly refusal to stoke the engines of Progress, and thank you Caroline for your many gifts to humanity, including this belioned building.

And thanks to Issy once more for your unflagging enthusiasm in keeping the game afoot. Here’s another limerick for Seattle’s winnin’est gargoyle hunter.

That Isabelle is quite a gal, and
she found our last cat on the Galland.
A gargoyle she’ll tether
regardless of whether
it’s footed or finnéd or talon’d.

Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt #13

The Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt continues with a thirteenth gargoyle, even though hunt #12 is at the moment of this writing still unsolved. This shot includes a few extra clues, because hey, I don’t want this to be agony, I want it to be fun. For rules of play see the first entry, here.

Where is this 107-year-old lion? Use the comments to submit your answer…or even your silly wild-ass guess. No answer that includes a Seattle location is invalid (it may be wrong but it won’t be invalid). Throw out a guess and see what happens.

Gargoyle #13

Just look #5

I know. I’m working on it. In the meantime, here’s a Just Look, a shot I took last November. It’s a little bit forlorn, but I find myself attracted to such views. I think some of the forlornity of it comes from its showing the outside of a stadium, which is the wrong side of a stadium to be on. A stadium is built to house a big party of fun, so even if there’s nothing happening in one the view of the outside of it naturally promotes a feeling of being left out. Or maybe that’s just the mindset I carry around. Come to think of it, yeah, I’m sure that’s it.

A mopey shot, in case you were feeling too chipper.


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