randy_byers: (Default)
I'm continuing to work my way through Gwyneth Jones' Top Ten novels by Women SF Writers. This was Fowler's first novel, which I read when it was published in 1992, and it's just as rich and strange as when it first came out. To call it science fiction is to acknowledge that it was published as such. It's by no means a traditional genre novel. A strange babbling woman shows up in the Washington Territory in 1873. She becomes attached to a Chinese railway worker named Chin, whose uncle is concerned that a white woman in Chinese company will lead to trouble for the Chinese, so he asks Chin to return her to her people -- a risky business. Along the way they acquire other followers, including the innocent, delusional dreamer, BJ, and the menacing, guilt-ridden Andersonville survivor, Harold, and the crusading feminist lecturer on the female orgasm, Adelaide.

As much a story of the Old West and an American quest novel as a work of science fiction, Sarah Canary features a protagonist who is all thing to all people -- an immortal, a madwoman, an incomprehensible alien. It's full of folk lore, scientific speculation, tall tales, and magic realism. It's an extraordinary literary debut by a writer I haven't kept up with, although she's gone on to great success.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Early in 1861 Arthur and Mary Denny, Charles and Mary Terry, and Edward Lander donated land on a forested 10-acre knoll overlooking Elliott Bay. The University was established there, on the site of what is now the Fairmont Olympic Hotel on University Street in downtown Seattle.

The Territorial University of Washington opened November 4, 1861. The fledgling University was little more than a backwoods school, which closed for lack of funds several times during its earliest years. The first faculty consisted of one professor who taught a curriculum that included Latin, Greek, English, history, algebra, and physiology.

-- Historic Overview - University of Washington

Today we're celebrating the 150th birthday of the University of Washington. 1861 was also the year the U.S. Civil War began, and on Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog they've been discussing how "two old ladies back-to-back" gets you back to an era when it was legal to own a human being in this country. In a similar vein, we were talking at a meeting yesterday about how somebody who has worked at the UW for thirty years (there were two at the table) has worked here for a fifth of the existence of the university. So I guess we're still young, and the history is still fresh. It only took 150 years to evolve from a backwoods school with a single professor to a world class research university.

Happy birthday, University of Washington!

Update: Good stuff from the Seattle Times, "UW began 150 years ago in audacious manner":

"Education throughout the Sound district is in an extremely backward condition," wrote William Barnard, the second president of the university, shortly after he resigned from his post in 1866.

"As an illustration: Not one of the misses attending the university, the first quarter after our arrival, could accurately repeat the multiplication table," Barnard wrote.

"Society is also greatly disorganized; drunkenness, licentiousness, profanity, and Sabbath desecration are the striking characteristics of our people," said Barnard, who counted "two distilleries, 11 drinking establishments, one bawdy house (brothel)" — and gambling going on just about everywhere.

It's worth remembering that the first settlers arrived in Seattle in 1851, and there were only 250 settlers and no high schools in the settlement when the UW was founded ten years later. Why build up to a university? Full speed ahead.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
On Wednesday, [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw and I saw Kelly Reichardt's latest film, Meek's Cutoff, and I expressed some disappointment with it in my review. Today via a thread about Jesse James at TNC's blog I learned about George Washington Bush, a black man from Pennsylvania who ended up settling in the town of Bush Prairie in what is now Tumwater, Washington, at the southern tip of the Puget Sound. Meek's Cutoff is set on the Oregon Trail in 1845. According to Wikipedia, "In 1844, Bush and his family (along with five other families including his friend Michael Simmons) left Missouri, heading west on the Oregon Trail. Bush's navigation skills and knowledge of the western region, gained during his years as a trapper, and while allegedly travelling around practicing polygamy with his seven other wives, made him the indispensable guide of the party."

I wrote in my review of the film that it is cut loose from history, but it occurred to me this morning that the radical uncertainty at the end of the film might well be a preface to history. That might explain the feeling of dread. History is about to happen, and it's going to be ugly process of war and dispossession. So it's interesting to read Bush's story, because it's actually pretty cool and has a happy ending. He tried to settle in Oregon, but it was already U.S. territory and blacks weren't allowed to own property. That's why he moved north into territory that was still claimed by the British as well as the U.S. British law allowed blacks to own property. When the U.S. took control of the land and formed the Washington Territory in 1853, "one of the first actions of the Territorial Legislature in Olympia was to ask Congress to give the Bushes unambiguous ownership of their land, which it did in 1855." One of Bush's sons was a member of the Washington State Legislature and was instrumental in the founding of Washington State University.

One of the frequent refrains at TNC's blog is that the Western genre has for too long ignored the place of blacks in the settling of the American West, where many of them fled to escape slavery or the post-war terror campaigns of the Ku Klux Klan. George Washington Bush's story seems like prime material for a revisionist Western. Meek's Cutoff has a different revisionist approach to the Western, but it's interesting that Bush's experience as a guide on the Oregon Trail could act as a kind of prequel.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Do you believe that significant numbers of slaves fought on the side of the Confederacy? You're wrong. So, apparently, is Henry Louis Gates. The mythology of the Lost Cause runs deep in this country, and it pops up in surprising places.

I'm reminded of a recent conversation with a friend who told me that an absolutely brilliant writer we know believed in the Oxfordian theory about Shakespeare until my friend debunked it to him a couple of years ago. I said it reminded me of Birtherism. People believe the most bonkers stuff in the face of all the evidence. I probably do too.


Mar. 4th, 2011 09:38 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
'I have heard that it is an ironic joke in Kenya that it was easier for a Luo to become President of the US than to become President of Kenya.'

-- comment in an excellent thread about Huckabee and Kenyan history on TNC's post: Proud of Being Ignorant
randy_byers: (yeoh)
Criterion has released a new version of Ang Lee's Civil War movie that's a bit over ten minutes longer than the theatrical version. I'd seen that earlier version on DVD before and found it a tale of two halves, with the first half being an utterly gripping war story and the second half a strangely mismatched kind of aimless marriage comedy. Watching the new version, I couldn't really see the differences, but the two halves seemed better integrated. I could now see how ambitious the movie was. It's an attempt to wrestle with the same history as previous Civil War epics such as Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939).

One of the things that disguises this ambition is Lee's typically understated approach. One of the things I've always liked about his movies is how taciturn they are, how nonverbal. There is always a sense that something is going on in the hearts of his characters that cannot be articulated. Another thing that disguises the epic quality of the story is that it happens on the fringes of the Civil War, in the Border War of Missouri and Kansas. All of the fighting is ultimately pointless skirmishing between guerrilla forces that has no effect whatsoever on the final outcome of the great battles back East and in the South. At the core of the movie is the Lawrence Massacre, when a band of men under William Quantrill descended on a Unionist town and murdered 180 unarmed men and boys in the streets and houses. In the movie, this is portrayed as an act of terrorism with no military purpose. The war has unleashed chaos on the land, and the movie raises the question of how order can be restored under these extreme conditions.

Lee explores the question through two major characters, Jake Roedel, who is the son of a Unionist German immigrant, and Daniel Holt, who is a freed slave. Both of them are fighting for the pro-Confederacy bushwhackers because of loyalty to another person -- Jake to a childhood friend whose father was murdered by Unionist Jayhawkers, and Holt to George Clyde, the charismatic Southern gentleman who manumitted him. Both Roedel and Holt slowly change their minds over the course of the movie, and Lee gets the pace of that change exactly right. In fact, Holt is the key to the story, initially treated as a voiceless cipher who gradually emerges from the shadows until we fully understand what motivates him. In his character, Lee captures the main thread of the Civil War: the freeing of the slaves to become independent actors in the history of the country.

If the movie stumbles (and I'm not sure it does), it is still in the final act, which depicts the development of a relationship between Roedel and a war widow, Sue Lee. I think the problem is that her character is not well-developed, because on a surface level this turn of events is exactly the right move. Again, it personalizes the political in the sense that the creation of an ad hoc family (complete with stepchild) is the new order growing out of the chaos of war. Yet unlike Holt, Sue Lee never really gets a story of her own, and thus her relationship with Roedel lacks depth. There is still something aimless about the final scenes in which she and Roedel come to terms despite themselves, and perhaps something stereotypical in the way that she represents the civilizing, socializing domesticity that will heal the wounds of war.

However, over all the movie does a tremendous job of putting American history into a narrative form. The crosscurrents tearing the country apart and pulling it back together are captured in the most intimate details of the characters' lives. The complexity of human experience is laid out both forcefully and delicately. As a drama, it reaches a crescendo halfway through that was physically exhausting both times I've watched it, nearly unbearably intense. It's a war film, and it does not shrink from the damage done, again presented in the most intimate, personal terms. Again and again, it strives to ground the epic, impersonal qualities of history and war in the simple details of daily life and the human comedy. Somehow it manages to make the human choices that form history both concrete and deeply mysterious, perhaps through that effective use of understatement (despite, or in contrast to, the florid, nearly Shakespearean language the characters speak).

This is one I'll no doubt be revisiting, although not lightly. Between this and Titus (also 1999), the movie watching was a bit on the brutal side last weekend.


Jun. 21st, 2010 10:32 am
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
On an even lighter note, again literally, if there are any white folks out there with the surname "Smack," hailing from Worcester Country send a kite. Likely, I picked tobacco for you once. But I'm not mad. Much. Cousin.

-- Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Cablinasian in Us All


Apr. 17th, 2010 10:22 am
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Seriously, the Faulknerian ghosts in my head are dying under this barrage, and some version of Buffy-the-history-crap-slayer seems to be taking their place.

-- sporcupine in comments at Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog, where he has been "celebrating" Confederate History Month with an amazing series of posts about the Civil War and the Reconstruction from the slaves' and freedmen's point of view -- check out "One War. Three Sides." for but one example, or "Honoring CHM: One Drop" or "Heroic Memory" (about Robert E. Lee) -- and all of this stuff resonates with what we're seeing from the Tea Party right now


Mar. 3rd, 2010 11:49 am
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
The proud spirit of the original owners of these vast prairies inherited through centuries of fierce and bloody wars for their possession, lingered last in the bosom of Sitting Bull. With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are. History would forget these latter despicable beings, and speak, in latter ages of the glory of these grand Kings of forest and plain that Cooper loved to heroise. We cannot honestly regret their extermination, but we at least do justice to the manly characteristics possessed, according to their lights and education, by the early Redskins of America.

-- L. Frank Baum, editorial for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, December 20, 1890

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published ten years later on May 17, 1900.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
When you have a few minutes, it's worth taking a look at Ta-Nehisi Coates's long post, "The Big Machine," which is a meditation on systems, including the fast food system and American white supremacy. As he has done a lot recently, he gets into Civil War history, and I learned something new again. This time I learned about George Henry Thomas -- the son of a Virginia slaveholder who fought on the side of the North, destroyed the Army of Tennessee in 1864, and receded in national memory while the likes of Stonewall Jackson became legendary.

As Pesto says in the comments, "Systems resist change, and one way they do that is by adapting to certain kinds of resistance." Which isn't to say that resistance is futile, but that as TNC says about white supremacy, "We should be humbled by the clear evidence that we don't really understand what we defeated, how we did it, or how its legacy haunts us today."
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Well, call me late for breakfast. I can't remember when I first saw a couple of signs in different areas indicating something named something like Cheshiahud Loop (although I wouldn't have been able to remember the name until today). The signs were near the Burke-Gilman trail, but I couldn't figure out what the hell they referred to. Now I learn that the city is in the middle of trying to create a multi-use trail around Lake Union. It will be called the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop. I'm probably the last one to hear the news.

I've looked at the Master Plan (via the website linked above), and it looks good. I now also understand some changes that were recently made to Burke-Gilman near the corner of 40th and 7th, which I pass through all the time on the way to and from work. More changes are ahead, all around the lake. The changes along Westlake and Eastlake (or Fairview) are pretty extensive, as you might imagine. Lake Union is very much an industrial, commercial area (the lake itself is badly polluted), and this could open it up quite a bit. I will be fascinated to see what the finished development looks like. It's a major undertaking.

While reading about this new trail development, I also got a Seattle history lesson. Cheshiahud was a Duwamish Indian born in a village on the shores of Lake Washington around 1820 before the white settlers had shown up in numbers. He lived until 1910, by which time the local tribes had long since been dispossessed of their land and their lifestyle. He was one of the few who, through his friendship with powerful white men such as David Denny, was allowed to live in and around Seattle after most of the tribal members had been pushed out to reservations elsewhere.

One of the things he lived through was the Battle of Seattle of 1856. This was part of an uprising of tribes called the Puget Sound War that was a reaction to the Point Elliott Treaty, which forced the tribes in the territory onto reservations. (The Yakima east of the mountains participated in the attack on Seattle.) The Battle of Seattle lasted only for a day, and the settlers took out a horrible vengeance for it afterward. The Duwamish people, however, had warned the settlers of what was going to happen, so Cheshiahud was spared the backlash. By 1865, American Indians were banned from living in Seattle, but Cheshiahud escaped the ban due to his friendship with Denny, who even gave him some property on Portage Bay in 1885.

A strange little corner of American history, and now it's the name of a trail around a strange little polluted urban lake.
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Lovely dinner last night at Kaosamai in Fremont with [livejournal.com profile] juliebata, [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw, and Denys. Conversation was wide-ranging, as you'd expect, but the topic that fascinated me the most was when Julie talked about how after the Civil War, a number of ex-slaves (including ancestors of hers) moved to Wisconsin and became farmers and dairymen, settling in peacefully and marrying their white neighbors. This was completely new data to me. Denys spoke for me when he said, "This wasn't after World War II?" Julie confirmed it was after the Civil War. She told us that her great grandfather (if I'm remembering the correct generation) learned to speak Bohemian, because one of his neighbors was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia.

Well, I love having my world expanded like that. There was also much gossip and other chitchat about gardening and hip replacements and farmers markets and Alaska and werk. I ate garlic pork and drank Chang Thai beer, which I had never tried before. It was fine, very similar to Singha. The pork was absolutely slathered in finely minced garlic. It tasted lovely, but I don't think you want to stand near me today.
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I can't remember if I've previously noted here that within the past year I spotted a street sign in the alley next to the Blue Moon Tavern that read Roethke Mews. I had to look up the meaning of "mews", but I loved the pun on "muse" at first sight. I also loved this recognition of Roethke. Theodore Roethke was an American poet who taught at the University of Washington beginning in 1950 and thereby became, famously, a regular at the Blue Moon.

The reason I bring it up now is that I've been reading obituaries of Walt Crowley, the Seattle historian and public figure who died last Friday at age 60. The obituary at BlatherWatch includes a comment from someone who explains that Crowley was behind the naming of the alley. I'm sure that Crowley will be remembered more for other things, such as HistoryLink.org: The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, but the naming of that alley was a brilliant stroke. I hadn't realized until today that the City Council had even made the name official, thanks to Crowley's effort. Good one, Walt! The bow ties are forgiven.
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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.
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Thanks to a discussion with Craig Smith that started on the topic of the West Coast literary science fiction convention called Potlatch, I've become aware of an interesting morass of Seattle history. It seems that in the aftermath of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the city began holding an annual Potlatch Festival to try to keep up its national profile. In 1913, the Potlatch Festival was disrupted by a riot that foreshadowed some of the region's history in the next few years.

Of Wobblies, pacifists, prostitutes, and sailors )
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At last, the Sooper Sekrit Publishing Project that will be released at Corflu Quire has been announced! Ah! Sweet Laney! -- Selected Writings of Francis Towner Laney is a 132 page collection edited by Robert Lichtman and designed by Pat Virzi. I got to proofread it, and in exchange I have received an advance copy. It's utterly gorgeous! Pat did a stupendous job on the design, and it has been printed on high quality paper and bound with plastic sheets to protect the covers.

It's a fascinating read, too. Laney was an LA-area fan in the '40s and '50s -- one of the Insurgents who railed against fannish bureaucracy and self-importance. (The LA fan club, LASFS, was a favored target.) He is most famous for his long memoir, Ah, Sweet Idiocy, which apparently incorporates an ongoing tirade against fandom. (It is not included here.) He's also famous for his homophobia, frequently exhibited here in his insinuations that LASFS was rife with homosexuality, although tellingly no names are named. This collection of writing is a fabulous window on LA fandom of the '40s, and a revealing exemplar of the notion that great fan writers are frequently both geniuses and fuggheads simultaneously. Reading about Laney's love/hate relationship with fandom is like grabbing onto a live wire. Both his impatience with fans and his homophobia come across as protesting too much, perhaps giving us a deeper glimpse into his sexual fears and internal contradictions than he knew. (Art Widner told me at LACon IV last summer that Laney, who was a friend of his, seemed to be very insecure about his own masculinity.) He wrote with great passion, often direct to stencil, no revisions. This collection covers everything from his ideas about how to put a fanzine together (still very much of interest), to why Lovecraft (an early literary love) wasn't going to be remembered in the long run (wrong!), to his early rambling, skeptical, excited engagement with Dianetics (which reveals pre-Scientology history I was completely unaware of).

It is a brilliant collection, and I highly recommend it. It is shot through with great artwork by William Rotsler and Alva Rogers, including a series of miniaturized covers from The Acolyte, Laney's early sercon fanzine. You can see a sample of it and find ordering details at efanzines.com. It's $15 plus postage (depending on which part of the world you live in), and worth every penny. The pennies go to the good cause of supporting Corflu, too.
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Yesterday I went to the Elysian Brewpub to have a Bifröst Winter Ale before heading to the Paramount for the screening of Diary of a Lost Girl (Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, 1929). I had been hoping to finish reading Angela Carter's retelling of the Bluebeard story, "The Bloody Chamber," but I ended up talking to the Elysian's manager, Greg, about the light rail and other Seattle developments instead. When I got the chance to have a word with the Elysian's brewer, Dick, I leapt at the chance to ask him about the original Redhook yeast.

Dick said that they didn't know what they were doing and allowed the standard yeast they began with to become infected. Infected by what, I wanted to know. Was it wild yeast? Could have been any number of things, he said. Yeast is susceptible to bacterial infection too.

It's still not clear to me how it happened exactly. Dick confirmed what others said in the comments to my previous post on this subject, that yeast is highly susceptible to change, and he said that he'll use a given batch of yeast only twenty or thirty times before going back to the yeast bank (I think he called it) and ordering a fresh batch. I'm not sure if Redhook just kept using the same yeast for too long, or if it got infected right away. I also asked him if he used local yeasts for his Belgian-style beers, and he said no, he gets Belgian yeasts from the yeast bank. I didn't ask him how the yeast bank keeps the strains stable. Now I wonder what Redhook used when they tried to recreate the original Redhook a few years later. Did they still have some of the infected yeast around? Somehow I don't think I'm ever going to get to the bottom of this story.

Later, as I sat in the Paramount wondering why [livejournal.com profile] akirlu and [livejournal.com profile] libertango hadn't shown up (turns out they were stuck in Redmond because of terrible traffic due to traffic lights being out), who should wander down the aisle but Dick. "I should have known this was where you were going," he said. Indeed, he and I used to talk movies all the time when I was a regular at the Elysian. It was a gorgeous print of the movie, too, although I prefer the other movie Louise Brooks made in Germany with G.W. Pabst, Pandora's Box. But it was fun to see it on the big screen with a crowd of several hundred yeasty, hoppy souls.
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In a thread about driving in the snow at [livejournal.com profile] kate_schaefer's LJ, we got to talking about the original Redhook Ale, and I mentioned having heard that "the yeast went dingo and had to be destroyed," which is why the beer tasted different when they brought it back a few years later. As usual, my understanding was suspect, even to myself. However, in poking around the Web a bit, I'm still not completely clear what the true story is.

What everybody agrees on is that the original Redhook Ale had an unusual taste (at least to us local yokels), which apparently got it labeled "banana beer" by the critics. However, an influential British critic said it had a Belgian flavor, and this supposedly prevented Redhook from changing the recipe immediately. Everybody also seems to agree that the unusual flavor was the result of the yeast used. But this is where it gets a little confusing.

In one interview I found, Paul Shipman (a Redhook founder) says, "Bert [Grant] was the first person, when we were clearly making the original Redhook Ale with a wild yeast strain, to come straight out and say it, and that angered us. And Bert was right. We had a yeast problem. The original Redhook Ale was a Belgian-style beer. We would have stopped making it early on, except Michael Jackson came along and was so enchanted with our 'Belgian-style ale,' that we were stuck with it."

I'm having a difficult time making sense of this. It does contain an interesting factoid, which is that the yeast was a wild strain, which is probably where I got my "the yeast went dingo" idea, except that it was apparently dingo from the get-go. But why was this a problem? Is there something inherently bad about wild yeast? It is also very, very strange to essentially say "it was a Belgian-style beer, which we would have stopped making early on if someone hadn't come along and said they liked Belgian-style beer." That just doesn't add up. I smell a whiff of bullshit.

But then there's also the Amazon.com listing of Peter J. Krebs' history of the company, Redhook: Beer Pioneer, which contains this account from Kirkus reviews: "Red hook cultivated an eccentric image as the maker of an eccentric product, an ale that reviewers at first described as tasting 'like bananas.' The wild northwest yeast gave it distinction, claimed Redhook's makers; it was the Belgian style they were really after, they claimed. Actually, the yeast was contaminated, but by then they had a following, so why announce their continuous tinkering? Still, tinker they did, finally getting the yeast right with a chemists help ...."

I'm still not sure I understand the story here. They used a wild yeast, but it was contaminated. Contaminated by what? Cooties? The upshot seems to be that the yeast gave the beer a taste that wasn't what they were after (the goal is described elsewhere as "a classic English ale," which puts the lie to "it was Belgian-style"), so they switched to a different yeast. Far from cultivating an eccentric image, Redhook beat an embarrassed retreat to something less wild, as it were. Twenty years later, Belgian-style beers are all the rage around here and nobody blinks an eye at banana flavors. Or that bubblegum bock that the Elysian made a few years ago ...

Well, I guess it's no wonder my grasp of the history was a little confused, what with these confused accounts floating around. I even read one account of a visit to the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville where the person claims the story he heard was that the hops in the original ale were the problem. Perhaps the wild yeast contaminated the hops, resulting in bananas. It was a crime against nature! No wonder Redhook sold out to Satan.
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The Carpenter Machineworks at the corner of 36th and Albion (the bottom of my block) has been torn down, and with it has gone some of the diversity -- and mystery -- of the neighborhood. I had noticed a couple of weeks ago that the windows and doors were open and that the building seemed empty. It was the first time in my 23 years living here I'd ever seen inside it, as far as I can recall. It was a nondescript light-industrial structure made of corrugated tin. Nothing much seemed to happen there, although occasionally I'd hear someone banging around inside. A rusty old heap of a flatbed truck with a little crane on the back was parked out front, off the street, for years. It was all a little mysterious, just like the blank-looking green building right next to it, which has a name and phone number painted on the door but little other sign of purpose or use. An old man drives up occasionally in a plain white van and goes inside, but what exactly does he do in there? It's gotta be a front for clandestine activity!

Histories and mysteries of Fremingford ... )


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