randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Last night I got together with [livejournal.com profile] wrdnrd and [livejournal.com profile] the_andy at Showa, a sake bar -- or izakaya -- in Fremont. I had mentioned it to [livejournal.com profile] wrdnrd when she posted about her love of sake on her blog. Suffice it to say that they know a lot more about sake then I do, and they gave me a primer over the first glass. The main thing I remember, other than typical alcohol content, is that the more polished the rice used to make it, the better the sake.

Showa is a cozy little place right above Chiso. As the website says, along with sake and cocktails they serve little food plates "like a tapas bar." We got a bowl of pickled vegetables and a couple of skewers of pork belly. I don't remember what the first bottle of sake was, but the second was unfiltered, so it was cloudy and sweeter than the first.

Conversation was good fun, and they told me about a couple of road trips, including the time they drove to Portland in their scooter and sidecar. Took ten hours. Oy. Crazy kids.

Well, more fun to talk about than to do, I suppose. I'd happily do that again. Showa was doing good business last night, so hopefully it'll stick around long enough for us to do a reunion tour.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
This is mostly to save the link in a convenient place for me, but maybe others would be interested in this blog post about a hiking route through Fremont that explores the many stairways. I've actually long been fascinated by some of the stairways along the ridge, but I've never explored them and have never been to Fremont Peak Park. The blog is called Seattle Stairways Walks, and apparently its focus is just that. Very strange specialization!

I also appreciated the history of Fremont they've compiled. Amongst other things, I didn't know where Fremont got its name, nor that it was originally platted in 1888. QOTD: "Unfortunately for Fremont, in 1932 the Aurora Bridge opened."

Last summer I took [livejournal.com profile] catabolism and [livejournal.com profile] estimate_lad on a long hike through Fremont. They were spared any stairs, as I recall. They might not be so lucky next time.

Parade day

Jun. 20th, 2010 08:49 am
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
I woke up in a crappy mood yesterday, but nonetheless I got a fair bit done in the morning, including some writing, hurrah. As usual, I started off with breakfast at Roxy's, and the streets of Fremont were already lined with chairs and blankets that people were laying down in anticipation of the Solstice Parade. It was raining. I was in a crappy mood. Let's call the whole thing off?

The neighbors were setting up down by Nectar, which was too jammed with people for my taste, so when time I wandered down Albion to the same intersection where I've watched many an edition of the parade. The rain had relented, but I was irritated by all the people being people -- saying stupid things, wanting to walk through the space where I was standing, and having a good time when I was not. I had also come down late enough that I missed the nude bicyclists but early enough that I had to wait 45 minutes for the parade to get there. Still, after all that, the parade was the usual fun and worked a bit of magic on my mood. Probably the standout float was a Yellow Submarine, with a full complement of Blue Meanies and Beatles (including one cross-dresser, of course) singing songs from the movie. There was also a pretty great Shakespeare puppet advertising Shakespeare in the Park. I spotted Sarah, who used to be a barista at Bulldog but quit to focus on her acting career -- which includes doing Shakespeare in the Park this summer. Before she quit she invited me to come see Romeo and Juliet, in which she's playing Lady Capulet. Sounds like fun.

After the parade I went to the neighbors' for a BBQ. (This meant I had to miss [livejournal.com profile] jackwilliambell's tiki birthday party, for which I apologize, but it seemed like a good day to stay close to home.) The other guests this year were other parents and children from the school the neighbors' daughter attends. With my crappy mood and all, I was dubious about hanging out with strangers, but it was fine. The mothers were all a kick in the pants, in fact, full of bawdy good humor and good-natured flirtation. It was interesting to watch them parenting, as well, as the various kids went through their various spats and stumbles. Other than the almost chilly weather, it was a perfectly pleasant way to spend a few hours out on the back deck. Probably good for me to get out of my comfort zone and rediscover that I can do just fine out there, even if the lives these people lead and responsibilities they deal with are far beyond my capacity. I guess the charismatic drunken uncle role I've learned to play comes in handy in other situations too.

After the BBQ I watched Julie Taymor's Titus (1999) all the way through for the second time (the first was in the theater -- a special showing at the Cinerama with Taymor in attendance). This is her adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, and I can't say I like the story much. I've never read the play or seen another production, so I can't really compare the movie to anything. It's visually gorgeous, and there are a number of powerful scenes. However, the villains are so over the top that I find them very hard to take, and Titus is just about as difficult as Lear to sympathize with. The only truly sympathetic character is Lavinia, and even she is a bit unfeeling in her comments to the Goths just before they exact their revenge on Titus against her. Still, an amazing scene when she begs Tamora to kill her rather than let her sons rape her. But the series of savage atrocities wears on me as it goes on. Terrible people doing terrible things to each other, and a villainous Moor giving mwa-ha-ha speeches worthy of a comic book. Not sure what to make of the final image either. New day rising? Whence this sense of hope and renewal? Well, I give Taymor a lot of credit for taking on such a challenging, difficult project as her calling card in the film world.

Tour guide

Jun. 14th, 2010 08:23 am
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Yesterday I picked up Doug and Christina around 12:30 and brought them to Fremont. I took them on a long, looping walk around the neighborhood. First stop was the Troll, of course, but we couldn't get a good photo because some people were reciting Shakespeare in front of it. So we continued on to the Lighthouse, which roasts its own coffee. (Doug is a coffee drinker, but Christina isn't.) Then down the hill again past Brouwers (not beer o'clock yet), a quick stop at the Theo Chocolate factory, where Doug picked up one of the excellent chocolate-and-chili-pepper bars, then into the Sunday Market, where we wandered around checking out the booths and listening to a couple of guys play Pink Floyd on accordion and acoustic guitar (it worked) before we grabbed a spicy pork sandwich from the pig-shaped truck. (Ye Ironne Pig, indeed.) Ate our sandwiches sitting in the grass by the canal, gossiping about our friends in the UK, Seattle, and all around the world. Walked down along the canal to Gas Works Park, up Kite Hill for that postcard view of downtown. Then back past the transfer station for a whiff of working Seattle, back into the business district for a visit to the Lenin statue, and then back up the hill to the Troll, where people were taking turns posing against the statue for pictures. I took a picture of D&C, and then it was back to my house, where they sat on Hazel's beautiful bench, which Victor had admired quite feelingly at the end of the party the night before. We drank some restorative water. It was another mostly-sunny day, and we had worked up a thirst on our long walk.

After that was the pubmeet, which was good fun. Linda Deneroff and Judy Johnson were there with flyers advertising Foolscap readings. "Foolscap is a relatively new convention," I told D&C.

Linda raised her eyebrows and said, "This will be the twelfth one."

"No fucking way," I insisted. I thought it was the fifth one, or thereabouts. Uh, maybe in binary? Uh ... uh ...

Well, anyway, it was a good pubmeet, with many of the usual faces and a few unusual ones, including Andy and Andi. (Hooper and Shechter, that is.) We discussed Swedish garage bands, as you do. Also Stieg Larsson's fannish past.

After that a bunch of us made a traditional fannish expedition to a Chinese restaurant -- Fu Shen, up on 91st and Aurora. Really good food, I thought. Suzle had just had a birthday, so it was a birthday dinner for her. There was more talk of Sweden. I blame Ulrika. She and Christina reminisced about an animated show from their childhood called The Magic Roundabout that was originally in French but in England was shown with an English text that was a whole different story and had nothing to do with the original. One way to solve the problem of translation! It was apparently written by Emma Thompson's father.

Then I took our visitors back to their hotel and that was another good day in the books. I'm already feeling bereft that they will soon be leaving town. It's pretty nice having them around!
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
The Fremont Universe blog reports that the building housing the Dubliner (an Irish bar) and 23 apartments above has been sold for $4 million (!) and that the buyer is saying they will develop the apartments into a hostel or pensione-style hotel. That could be a potentially very cool development, although I'm curious what kind of demand there is for hotel rooms in Fremont. Would it be aimed at business people? Tourists? People who are in town visiting friends for the weekend?
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
So yesterday was a drift around day. I needed to take DVDs back to Rain City Video, and since that got me halfway there, I continued on to the Fremont Sunday Market. It was the first time I'd made it there this summer, and it has expanded. Same old food choices, however, and I had the panang curry from the Thai booth with the tip jar that says "for ticket to Thailand." They don't seem to be getting there very fast; not that I mind, because I like their panang curry. Ran into the neighbors, who were in line for pizza. We chatted about Montreal and about their trip to Germany next month.

Lately I've been coming to terms with the reality that there are now two buses, the 30 and the 31, with direct service between Fremont and the U District. So after the market, I hopped onto a 30 and wended my way to the Big Time to watch some of the Mariners game. The Mariners were hopeless against the Royals' ace, Zach Greinke, but the bartender was playing cool tunes by Animal Collective and Atlas Sound, neither of which I'd heard of before. When I got home, I bought the MP3s of Atlas Sound's Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel from Amazon.com, and I listened to the whole album three or four times. I'm not sure how to describe the sound. It has pop textures, but with a lot of looping and ambient techniques. Minimalist wall of sound? I dunno. I've just done a bit of googling, and it's apparently a side project for the lead singer of another band I've never heard of, Deerhunter. I'm so out of it, etc, etc.

I also watched the Toho movie The H-Man (1958), which I had bounced off of the night before. The Japanese title is Bijo to Ekitainingen, which Wikipedia says means "Beauty and Liquid Men". The opening shot is of an atomic bomb going off. This is a moody little science fiction horror film about people who are transformed into murderous flows of goo by radioactivity. Probably would have given me nightmares as a kid, because the recurring image is of people melting. Lots of fairly pedestrian genre tics to this one (including a half-naked dancer in a cabaret who is just there for horny teenage boys, as far as I could tell), but the underlying fantasia is quite good. The lab scenes where they dissolve frogs with radioactivity to prove their theory are just as disturbing as the H-man murders in dark, rainy streets and on fogbound ships.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
It seemed to me that a lot more people had already staked out places along the parade route as I made my way to Roxy's Diner this morning at 8am than had done so by the same time last year. The guys who had hauled six couches down to the curbside looked like they had camped on the couches overnight. Yes, it's time for the annual Fremont Solstice Parade (NSFW). An air of happy anticipation is building in the neighborhood. One guy I passed gave me the Hawai'ian shaka sign and said, "Aloha!" Roxy's was already humming with business, and I told the waitresses that I would pray for them. It's going to be a crazy day there at the heart of the storm.

Meanwhile, I'm printing the cover for AmaZed and CorfluZed #4, the Corflu Zed regress report. The plan is to mail paper copies to every member of the convention, including supporting and one-day members. Once the paper is mailed out, the PDF will go up on efanzines.com. I'm really pleased with the zine, which is a good memorial to the convention. I'll post a notice here when the PDF goes up.

It rained hard yesterday evening, but the sun is peeking out now. Maybe it won't rain on the solstice parade. Time to pick some raspberries!

Update: Drums in the distance. The natives are restless.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Strange coda to the story I posted about the other day about the Triangle Tavern being replaced by a gangster-themed bar called Nine Million in Unmarked Bills. According to a column in the Stranger, the name of the new bar is taken from a piece of neon artwork by Jeremy Bert. Bert's piece, made from mismatched salvaged neon, says "Leave Nineteen Million in Unmarked Bills." The owner of the bar is upfront about deriving the name of the bar from the art piece, and in fact he initially tried to buy it to display at the bar, but was turned down. The column by Jen Graves is well worth reading for the examination of the ethics of the situation. I still think it's a dumb name for a bar, but this story at least personalizes it a bit.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Okay, this is an example of another thing that drives me crazy. Fremont Universe announces that the Triangle Tavern is closing and being replaced by a '20s-gangster-theme-bar called 9 Million in Unmarked Bills. Now, admittedly this new bar sounds like a place I will stay far away from. But you know, I've stayed far away from the Triangle lately too.

However, the thing that drives me crazy is the comments: "I think my neighborhood is starting to slip away from me." "The Triangle was doomed when Fremont was transformed into a yuppie corporate office park." "This neighborhood is falling apart."

I'm trying to remember when these complaints about Fremont started. It was sometime in the '90s, I think, probably around the time that property prices started going through the roof. In short, it's been going on for well over a decade now. I'm not sure which is more maddening: that these same comments have been repeated over and over for fifteen years, or that the people making the comments on this post have probably only been living in the neighborhood for five years.

It's true that Fremont has been gentrified. The thing is, it's been true for so long it is no longer worth commenting on! This longing for the golden past before gentrification is really, really tired. From a personal standpoint, it's also tiresome because I actually prefer the gentrified Fremont to the golden age Fremont. I like having restaurants and bars and bookstores and record stores (well, only one now) that I can walk to. We could use a movie theater too, damn it. But that's just me. The main point is that Fremont is not slipping away or falling apart. It is gentrified, plain and simple, and has been for quite a while. Get over it.
randy_byers: (Default)
Sheesh, go away for a couple of weekends and the whole neighborhood goes to hell! Walking past Mad Pizza this morning on my way to Roxy's Diner, I saw a sign in the window saying they have closed shop in Fremont. Apparently they still have a store in South Lake Union, which I didn't know about. We're mostly a Pagliacci household, but I liked Mad Pizza's pies whenever I had them. Most recently they saved our bacon at a Corflu committee meeting earlier this year when Pagliacci's told us they wouldn't deliver before 3pm.

Man, I'm going to be seriously bummed if Roxy's goes belly up.
randy_byers: (Default)
As I was walking down to Roxy's Deli for breakfast this morning, a guy in a pickup at a stoplight yelled at me, "Hey, isn't there a statue of you right over there?"

"Yeah," I said, "that's me."

We laughed, and he gave me the thumbs up.
randy_byers: (Default)
The neighbor and I went to a community meeting last night concerning the city's proposals for regulating parking in Fremont. This would include putting 2-hour meters in the business district, 10-hour meters on some residential streets, and turning other residential streets, including the one I live on, into Restricted Parking Zones with permits for residents and guests. I'm sorry to see it get to this point, but it certainly would make life easier for us during High Festival days like the Solstice Parade and Fourth of July, when we don't dare drive away from the house because we'd never find parking when we got back. I'm not sure I completely understand the 10-hour metered parking concept, although it seems to have to do with people who work in the neighborhood but don't live there. There was quite a bit of talk about how to manage the people driving into Fremont to drink in the evenings. I had to laugh at the woman who was concerned that this would force them to ride the bus, and she knew she wouldn't want to be on a bus with drunk people.

Afterwards, I caught Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic convention, starting somewhere in the middle. I got the chills again from the sense of history in the making. As impatient as I get with people who sniff about "the cult of Obama," it's undeniable that there's a symbolic value to the prospect of putting the Obamas in the White House that functions on a pretty deep, non-rational level. That symbolic value isn't simple and is potentially explosive in any number of directions, some of which will no doubt be ugly.

On that symbolic level, I thought Michelle Obama did a great job of just standing in the national spotlight and projecting intelligence, confidence, and charm. It was a little disorienting afterwards to hear a couple of white talking heads on CNN gabbling about how the Obamas have to deal with the fact that they look different from us, and therefore have to convince us that they share our values. Could they have been any more blatantly racist? I mean, yes, of course they could. But the assumptions behind that usage of "we" were pretty mind-blowing. Apparently "we" are all white, and "we" are all scared of people who look different. What must it be like for Donna Brazile to sit there with these people, playing "them" to their "we"? It's one of the reasons that TV news is pretty much worthless to me. Too many puffed up bloviating idiots who do not represent me or *my* values. Bah.
randy_byers: (Default)
In my own really rather surprisingly daring gesture of inner exhibitionism, I went commando to the Fremont Fair today. (I just learned this meaning of "commando" in the past couple of weeks and have been dying for a chance to use it. The things I'll do to exercise my vocabulary!) In that context, it was pretty funny to hear the guys hawking utilikilts claim that it's just like goldfish, if you put them in a bigger bowl, they grow bigger. "C'mon, fellas! Set yourself free. Give yourself some more room. It's just like goldfish!"

My two goals for the day were to eat a Ballard Bros. Cajun salmon burger and to spend some quality time with Art Widner, who was up here with his aboriginal art car to participate in the Art Car Blow-Out. I accomplished both goals, and Art told me a couple of great stories about Francis Towner Laney and Charles Burbee and Elmer Perdue and about the infamous '64 Baycon and the Breendoggle, when Walter Breen was banned from the convention after accusations of pedophilia, and all fandom was plunged into war, and about teh gays in LASFS in the '40s (which I asked about in the midst of talking about Laney's homophobia and sexual insecurity). On top of all that -- the icing on the cake, as it were -- I also saw [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw and [livejournal.com profile] juliebata, Elinor Busby, Marci M., and, right at the end, Art's granddaugther, Magenta, and great grandson, Gus. It always amazes me that I rarely run into people I work with at the fair, although I did spot one from afar today. Good thing she didn't see me letting everything hang out!

The fair actually seemed relatively depopulated today. Even the beer gardens were pretty empty. Quite the contrast from yesterday, I was told, when everybody came for the parade and stayed for the fair. It was pretty danged nice to hang out with friends on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the fair.
randy_byers: (Default)
The Fremont Solstice Parade is a genuinely odd duck. It's a hodgepodge of neopaganism, goofball DIY performance art, leftist agit prop, nudism, exhibitionism, and genderfuck, with a smattering of community or other social and performance clubs thrown in. I'm not sure there's a unifying concept, unless it's Let Your Freak Flag Fly. Perhaps it's a bit of Burning Man in our backyard, come to think of it. Counterculture in the American West circa 2008.

The things that most caught my attention this year, for whatever reason, were the guy in an orange jumpsuit and black hood dragging a cross, Christlike, while two guards in camo walked behind him; the pirate cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster offering the blessing of His noodly appendages and a clamor of religious rants; and a small, uncoordinated, unshowy group that included at least two transexuals, including a very tall one who strode along uncostumed, but naked to the waist, and another whose breasts were displayed in a fetishistic way that made them look plastic. Perhaps they were plastic, it was hard to tell, and that seemed to be the point. The young woman behind me told her girlfriend, in a surprisingly aggressive tone, "My tits are better than that."

There were a couple of other good political performances -- one with a guy in a Dick Cheney mask swigging oil, and a group carrying a papier mache Statue of Liberty (shades of Across the Universe) and singing "God Bless America" as a funeral dirge. "Do you miss your civil liberties?" they asked. There was a martial arts club of some kind, showing off their moves, like dancers, and a huge contingent of belly dancers dressed in colors ranging around fuchsia and magenta and just plain pink. There was a separate group of maybe twenty Middle Eastern-looking guys in white garments and turbans playing cymbals and drums chanting while dancing in a swaying V-formation, with a single female bellydancer looking like an absolute badass in the mouth of the V. There were many papier mache solar designs, oh yeah, and the women who sang "Do your boobs hang low, do they wobble to and fro," as they waggled theirs. That group included a young boy, maybe five or six, with slinky, springy things dangling from his chest where his boobs would be. One of the stranger bits of genderfuck in a parade rife with it. Made me wonder what he thought of it. He seemed to be having fun, and was really into shaking his ta-tas along with the rest of them at the climax of the song. Some of the women were wearing the same slinky, springy things on their chests.

This parade has been going on for a couple of decades now, if I'm not misremembering. Fremont has gentrified quite a bit in that period. It's nice that the parade still gets its freak on, and in fact it does so more than ever in some ways. There was a period when the city was threatening to arrest the nude bikers, and now there's an endless train of nude bikers and nude rollerskaters and nude strollers and half-naked dancers, not just streaking at the start of the parade, but now in the parade itself. There was a guy on a bike with a heart painted on the tip of his cock. I think it's good for the community to see something like that now and again, don't you?
randy_byers: (Default)
Some of the local yokels might be interested in what's going on with the great big pit at 40th and Stone Way. What I didn't realize is that there's also a proposal for a four-story mixed residential and retail building at 39th and Stone Way. It's described as being kittycorner to the pit, so I'm guessing it's that property that has been an endless revolving door of businesses over the past few years. Maybe it's an indoor plant place now? Nothing ever seems to last there.
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The New York Times has an article about the technology scene in Seattle that echoes the one in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Google that I posted about recently. It mentions the opening of the Google research lab in Fremont too. It also talks about the increase of venture capital coming to Seattle, and it talks about the importance of the University of Washington to what's going on in the tech sector here. Pretty good punchline, too: 'Mr. Etzioni says Seattle has at least one advantage over its storied counterpart in California. “People aren’t distracted by too much sunshine,“ he said. “They sit in their offices or garages and get creative.”' That was actually an argument used about the music scene back in the grunge era, come to think of it. I guess the weather explains everything that happens here. Or could it be the only thing people know about Seattle?
randy_byers: (Default)
Interesting, if puffy, piece about Google's new office in my neighborhood of Seattle, Fremont. I think I had heard they were opening an office there, but had forgotten. Not noted in the article, which notes that "more than a half-dozen companies -- ranging from Adobe to startups such as All Star Directories -- have offices on North 34th Street" (I live on 36th), is that Adobe is actually building a whole new building on their campus for further expansion. Also not noted is that the South Lake Union neighborhood (a.k.a. Allentown) is actively courting Microsoft and Amazon, partly because the insanity of the cross-lake commute ("Kirkland is a schlep") is getting worse and worse. The tech companies seem to be looking more favorably at opening offices in Seattle itself. Perhaps it's also because the rents on the Eastside are no longer cheaper than those in the city.

Deep in the puffery about all the "perks" Google offers, we find the reason why I would never want to work for them (or any other high tech company, probably): '"When you spend so much time at work, you should have some input on what it is like," said Peter Wilson, engineering director and director of the Kirkland office.'

To my mind, when you spend so much time at work, you should look for another job. Ha!
randy_byers: (Default)
I think I've mentioned before, at least in passing, the enigmatic Bridge Motel, which sits at the north end of the Aurora Bridge, just a long block from here. It has always presented a fairly blank face to the neighborhood, as though it were hiding something. In my mind, the sign always says No Vacancy, but nobody seems to be there. In my imagination, I've always seen the place as a hive of aliens here on a secret mission, undoubtedly plotting an invasion. Turns out that in reality the reasons for the air of secrecy were much more tawdry and pragmatic.

According to an article in today's Seattle Times, "When the Bridge Motel opened in 1954, it served mostly as a way station for traveling salesman and a sentry for traffic entering Seattle from the north, Pan said. In recent decades, it has become a home to drug users and prostitutes, and the site of several murders." Hm, wonder if that was the source of the body that was dumped on the sidewalk two houses up from us a while back. The body was apparently pushed out of a car that then sped away. I've never heard any details, but there was a rumor that it was an OD.

The motel will finally be torn down next week. This has been impending for months. It will be replaced by yet another set of townhouses, much to nobody's surprise. Tonight from 5pm to midnight, "the old motel will transform into a free-form gallery and performing-arts space." The artists are memorializing the "surreal and iconic" nature of the motel and decrying the transformation of Seattle into a playground for the middle class. I have some sympathy for this point of view, but it always seems to me that the artists come off as way too self-aggrandizing in this kind of thing. (Unusual in an artist, I know.) The article points out that the motel, in its time, replaced "a cute single-family home, built between 1910 and 1920." I'm sure the neighborhood went to hell then too, with the infusion of god-damned traveling salesmen sticking their toes into everybody's doorway.

But we bid thee a surreal and iconic farewell, Bridge Motel. The aliens will have to find another blank face to hide their invasion plots behind.
randy_byers: (Default)
This morning as I was walking up 36th after getting a double short latte at Espresso To Go, I ran into a mother walking with her young daughter, who was looking like the whole walking skillset was still under development. The little girl gave me a shy smile, and I smiled back. The mother gave me a big, proud smile. My daughter can walk! About twenty feet onwards, I ran into another mother carrying a child of about the same age as the little girl. About twenty feet after that, I saw a worried, scowling mother with a child of about the same age in a stroller. About fifty feet beyond, I ran into a mother walking with a child who was barely capable of it at all and was definitely getting help at maintaining verticality. Across the street, two parents with a small child, and down the sidewalk another mother and child. Okay, this could not be a coincidence! Must be some kind of toddlers convention in Fremont, perhaps at the Baptist church on 36th. Man, I bet the consuite is a mess!


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