Friday, September 29, 2006

Port Angeles - Art Outside

Port Angeles, WA

Somewhere between eccentric and magic, there is the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center’s Art Outside project. Over 75 pieces of art can be seen scattered along the trails through Webster’s Woods.

At first, the pieces seem obvious. Roots lead from the parking lot to the forest. Large floating thought bubbles surround the entrance.

But inside the forest, along the trails, the pieces skew your perspective. Make you look at what is in front of you through a different angle.

Granted, some of them are absurd. The prospect of being able to create art which will sit in a forest seems to bring out the Blair Witch in everyone.

But sometimes you can see into the art.

And feel tiny.

You can also see into a few backyards. The Art Center is hidden in the middle of the suburbia surrounding Port Angeles. But that only makes it seem more magical to encounter mathematical gates hiding behind trees with stones hanging like fruit from their branches.

Sequim - These boots were made for walkin'

In Sequim you can still pick blackberries on the side of the road.

Lots and lots of blackberries.

So many that your hands turn purple, and you itch from the tiny thorn-scratches.

But blackberries are good on just about everything.

And free and fresh beats $2.50 and paper or plastic.

Just look where you are going, and where everyone else is going. Sometimes there aren't any curbs to walk on - just blackberries and roadside ditches.

Nature runs alongside civilization here. Sometimes it even runs right down the middle.

Like it does in Carrie Blake Park.

Sculpted and wild at the same time, the Japanese Garden in Carrie Blake park provides a tranquil entrance.

It is sponsored and maintained by the Sequim Rotary Club as part of their sister city program with Sisco City in Japan.

Ducks swim around the lantern at the center of the pond. Trees, bridges, and even Squirrel Houses fill the area with the perfect touch of nature. Roads running around the park are visible but feel unobtrusive, separated in space and time through landscaping and the ever-present trickle of streams.

In one direction, these streams lead to your traditional grassy park-swing set-visitor center and parking lot combination. Where children and dogs jump from cars, and try to take off running before Parents can catch them.

In the other direction there are flowers and white oak trees growing, even as we head into Autumn.

The fields next to these trickling steams are furrowed by gophers and fire breaks.

Cross the fields to join the boaters at the pond on Fridays. They run along the bank, racing their ships, sails straining against the wind.

They are sailing, of course, model ships with remote controls.

When they aren't present, kids 14 and under can go fishing in the pond.

The park is an amazing network of nature and civilization. A park that, while not quite on the scale of Central Park or San Francisco Gate, would make any city proud.

Just be certain you pay attention to the signs posted throughout the park.

Don't drink the water.

Carrie Blake Park is a reuse demonstration park, consisting of a meandering network of streams, marshes and ponds working toward water reclamation for Sequim.

But you wouldn't know it to walk through there.

Sequim - Small Town, big Elephant (er, Mastadon)

Sequim, WA. A small, self-proclaimed retirement town overlooking the Pacific Ocean and, on a good day, Canada.

A main bus line running down the 101 freeway (on its way to Port Angeles) comprises the majority of the public transportation on four wheels. Trails and walks crossing the town and surrounding farms provide the rest of transportation.

Retirement cities are some of the few places where the number of car-owning, driving citizens is shrinking faster than the teenagers waiting for their driving permits.

In other respects, Sequim is a perfect, quaint ocean town. Surrounded by farms and oceans, one of the main downtown attractions is a public restroom building.

Another is the giant Mastodon, which a resident found while digging a pond in his backyard.

I am not entirely convinced that the two are unrelated.

The tusks were the first parts of the Mastodon discovered. They look like a partially cracked, curved tree branch, and both are lying in a covered drinking trough, submerged for preservation.

Since the tusks were discovered underwater, they were in particularly fine condition. So fine that the person who found them didn't recognize them. Well, not at first.

I always love stories like that. On one hand, it seems strange that anyone could miss a bone. Bones are one of those materials (like radioactive waste and kryptonite) which everyone should be able to recognize outright.

On the other hand, if you've ever seen a bone in the ground, next to a piece of driftwood, half-buried, covered in mud, sitting on your kitchen table, or otherwise rendered unrecognizable, you know what every other bone-finder knows. Those things are nearly impossible to spot. And even more impossible to recognize.

So you have to admire someone who was able to, while ticking off an item on his Honey Do list, figure out that an ancient tusk was not a tree branch, and call the proper authorities.

The museum has two other eye-catching permanent exhibits (about seventy-five percent of the exhibit space is rotated in order to accommodate a variety of large exhibits in combination with local art). Both of these exhibits seem to reflect Sequim well to this day.

A cross-section of an old irrigation pipe.

The original Post Office boxes.

Irrigation has always been extraordinarily important to Sequim. The city and surrounding areas are both surprisingly temperate and nearly rain-free. Despite what you may think of the Washington/Seattle area, there was hardly a cloud - and certainly not a drop - in the sky during my entire visit.

The original Post Office boxes speak volumes. Not simply because no one today remembers the combinations for the doors to the safety deposit boxes, but also because Sequim has nearly always had the problem I am sure many of are having already with its name.

How would you pronounce "Sequim"? Do you think you could pass the spelling bee if asked to stand up there and recite?

When the town was first created, the USPS couldn't even spell the postmark correctly. Letters arrived or were sent addressed to "Seguin", "Sequin", and "Segun". These letters still found their way. Or so the Visitor Center/Museum would have you think).

But the dawn of the Washington coffee age (think: Starbucks) helped to resolve both problems.

(Local, delicious coffee provided by The Beehive, with nary an obscure reference to Moby Dick in sight)

Or, maybe the caffeine simply contributes to their lawn ornaments playing major contact sports on the side of the freeway, without being overly productive in the process.

I believe the yellow tennis-ball helmets were winning 21-13 when this picture was taken.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sunny Farms Country Store

Sunny Farms is the supermarket/natural foods store/co-op that Bert & Ernie would have invented.

Just off the bus line, also known as Callam Transit, running through downtown Sequim, Sunny Farms has everything from Organic plants to Burt's Bees.

Even with its crunchy granola roots, Sunny Farms is best known for its deals on local produce. Paper bags advertise the daily produce rates, with exotic fruits piled next to native squash and creatively bred pumpkins.

The word spreads fast in small northern towns. While walking across Hurricane Ridge earlier, two families were talking about stopping by Sunny Farms instead of Costco and Wal-Mart, since the produce was cheaper.

This particular trip to the "farm" boasted oysters harvested less than three hours earlier, potato and mushroom mixes, and a rainbow of bell peppers. Who knows what the next trip will serve.

Hurricane Ridge

There's no hurricanes here.

Just Glaciers.

Well, far-away glaciers.

Very far away.

It's still Summer. And there's that whole Global Warming thing to consider.

But the snow does reach here every once in a while.

At least, that's what the Olympic Ski Patrol would have us think.

(This cabin is called "Ice Station Zebra". If I were going after a black and white animal to name an Ice Station after, I'd pick one with a little more experience. Ice Station Penguin or Orca might conjure more inspiring images of sure-footed snowy navigation.)

I think maybe it's just that they like their little cabin out in the wilderness, next to the trees which grow slanting and stunted due to the winds that this ridge is named for.

Apparently they're Hurricane-strength.

But today the breeze wasn't even strong enough to disturb the last of the bluebells.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A beat of a different drum

Port Townsend, WA

This is one of those little towns that accepts anyone who accepts anyone else. Equipped with little more than a few Victorian buildings down Main Street and some piers stretching out toward Canada, Port Townsend still manages to attract Antique collectors and Skateboarders at the same time.

There's Quimper Sound (the Analog Lounge), where vinyl and orange prevail, and you can listen to your tunes in what might be the only (or at least the oldest) genuine record vault. Quimper Sound occupies the former First American Bank Building at 230 Taylor Street, which means that their record vault is an original, intact bank vault.

Port Townsend has its own big city draws, such as the Port Townsend bus line (where each stop has a classic, Victorian feeling) . It also manages to pull off some even cooler feats which no big city could accomplish, such as Thirsty Dog water bowls scattered through downtown, and unexpected gatherings, such as the Kinetic Race.

The town doesn't feel like an old town section of a larger urban area, even though it has some similar characteristics. There is the eccentric shop filled with everything from party tricks to greeting cards (April Fool & Penny Too); the old-fashioned & delicious ice-cream parlor (Elevated Ice Cream); a coffee shop that knows the value of fresh pastries (Bread & Roses); and plenty of crafty, artsy, near-souvenir shops with even funkier names.

Up the highway is Fort Worden (more on that later), and if you look down certain alleys, you can spot plenty of dive bars and kids hanging out in beat-up cars.

There's plenty to see. And the entire place is miles from your average small-town. Okay, so they could have been a little bit more creative with the name of the town. But at least you know where you stand when you're there.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Goodnight, Victoria

I'm accustomed to crossing cultures. Despite the U.S. attempt to appropriate the melting pot idea, I have yet to encounter a city containing more streets than "Main" which does not contain its own (however small) ghettoes - excuse me, towns.

So that even the sparkling, British streets of Victoria have their own Chinatown Alley. You can find this arch of carved dragons and tourist gold-leaf next door to the Authentic Native American Tribal Trading Post & Souvenir Shop. T-shirts on sale 5/$10.

And hidden market squares.

It is fascinating to me what one block can hide. How much open space is concealed by apartment towers in every city.

What one alley can reveal.

Please don't misunderstand me. I love these hidden areas. The sparkle of paper lights, the bright colors people create when they live in small, dirty spaces. Benches are red, storefronts yellow, and most people (especially those stuck in driving by on their way to wherever they are always late to) never see the courtyard in the middle of the block.

I have found entire parks, gardens, fountains and treasures just by walking down the space between the buildings. These hidden worlds are magical.

Worlds that can only be seen at night. Worlds that don't involve tourists. Where, in order to find them, you have to find the only streets where busses still run after dark. Worlds which are, surprisingly, devoid of those pesky humans.

I watched the lights of Parliament reflected in the harbor to the sound of Canadian Mounties arresting a gentleman for sleeping in public.

Despite the rumors in the states that the Canadian police/army/defense have no power, they certainly act just like their American cousins.

Victoria, eh.

So. As part of my grand trip up North, I headed to see how the other English-speaking nation on the Americas handles their citizens without cars.

Watch your step.

There's the flag, and the last I'll see of the States for two whole days.

It could be a warning to the U.S. of A.

And to squirrels who don't want to fall into the wake of the ferry.

The closest thing to a train or bus to take you to the island of Victoria is the ferry. Not being a sea-faring creature myself, I hitched a ride on the large (deluxe edition) model, rather than the smaller passenger-only ferry. After all, there are killer whales in these waters, or so the whale watching tours claim. I don't want to take a chance on their liking squirrels.

While I'm headed to the strongest British remainder that I know of, there's no train (it's an island, remember?), double-decker busses are only for tourists, and I don't know what form of transportation I will find on this tree-covered island that plays host to loggers and high-tea.

On first sight, it doesn't look like much. A few buildings, a few trees, some boats. Their flag has one less color than the U.S. of A. version.

The Canadian dollar is called a Loonie. They have a very important national sport that involves grown men sweeping the ice with large brooms. The island of Victoria is known for its Victorian Christmas celebrations.

But I found a flying plane.

Welcome to Victoria, eh.

Bored and waiting to board.

Welcome to Downtown Port Angeles.

Logging. Shipping. Logging.

And ferries to Canada.

You can float your way outta here. Just be careful; you might not want to swim.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Port Gamble, WA

They told us once or twice to quit playin' cards and shootin' dice.

My first stop in Washington was one of the little port towns (not to be mistaken with Port Wines) called Port Gamble.

Now, in this northernmost edge of the United States, they have a lot of ports. And a lot of towns. And all of these towns are descriptively named.

Appropriately enough, I took my own gambles with their humbly titled Sea Shell museum, which can be found atop the general store/ice cream parlor, next door to the Port Gamble Museum.

And, of course, I spotted a few gambling sea shells. I believe they're playing poker.

Since it was Port Gamble, they had a few of the more dangerous specimens of shells as well.

Such as the Killer Clam.

Which is a bit of false advertising, as far as names go.

Seriously. Read the fine print.

While a three foot clam is a bit freaky, it wouldn't have me swimming for the hills.

These things might though.

Horseshoe crabs. Living fossils which have been around somewhere in the range of 200 million years. One of those animals with a descriptive misnomer which modern scientists enjoy poking holes in with their evolution/microscopes/dna.

The Horseshoe "crab" is more closely related to spiders and scorpions than to crabs.

It was also the closest thing in a Shell Museum that I could find to a killer sting ray.

I really wasn't looking for a killer sting ray, but I'd hate to own the only blog existing that hasn't mentioned the "Freak Accident™" the Crocodile Hunter encountered while filming at the Great Barrier Reef.

Because I'd never do anything that stupid.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Wilshire - Fairfax: Consider This

When you ride the bus, you can do crazy things, like crash an art party on the spur of the moment, without having to worry about the high cost of parking and car thieves. Which is, of course, exactly what I did.

LACMA West...well, I have no real idea what LACMA West is. I know that it is West of the actual LACMA building, which is easily identifiable by the grandiose architecture and river-lake-fountains leading up to and surrounding it. Or, by the giant signs reading LACMA > in front of the construction/gaping hole which will one day be a new LACMA (middle?). The only information I could find on LACMA West in my extensive five second search for information is that it used to be a May Company and was purchased by LACMA in 1991-2.1

Side Note: Amazingly, does not exist. I suggest
that someone purchase that domain immediately and begin ruthlessly dismantling the exhibits hosted at LACMA West. Because really, what fun is art if you can't criticize it?

Oh, yeah, we were supposed to be considering it.

LACMA West is also better-known as the building which once housed the King Tut exhibit, which did not contain King Tut at all (and therefore should be submitted to questions about truth in advertising).

Right now it appears to house an exhibit dedicated to the futility of modern art. Or a workshop designed to expand the average white, privileged mind as other white, liberal privileged minds believe it should be expanded. One of those two.

The exhibit is tentatively titled "Consider This..." although the punctuation varies according to publication. I attended it in the midst of what was, apparently, a very private birthday party. Luckily, as with most parties, there was no one there who knew everyone else, so I was allowed to explore uninhibited.
So, let's consider:

Important questions......facilitate factitious replies...
...without sufficient answers...
...which lead to...

...and an over-use of elipses.

Also known as "art".


Those of you looking for real artists, click here.

Those of you searching for real answers need not apply.

1 General Information > About LACMA (

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Home is a little slice of heaven

Welcome to my slice of the pie. It is a short runway strip of grass created by the unruly nature of Santa Monica Blvd, which is one of those rare streets which refuses to conform to the straight lines of city planning grids.

It was probably created because no one knew what else to do with a spare triangle of curb, since there's already a Starbucks across the street.

It is also nicely gated, and locked at all times, to keep pesky humans out.

Sometimes I miss the standard park fixtures - little old ladies who pass out peanuts, grubby kids who drop their sandwiches - but not enough to give up having the whole place to myself. Most squirrels I know don't get that kind of luxury.

The only human disturbance I see at home is from the city's gardeners who trim the grass, rake the leaves, and keep the whole place looking Mr. Clean (which I bet is a lot easier to do in a park with no people; even the bums forgo their native park bench habitat to sleep across the street on the lawns and alleys of apartments-turned-condos, on account of this fabulous fence).

The bars do tend to give the place a touch of Alcatraz, which I is pretty trendy at the moment. Personally, I would prefer something a little less black. Perhaps I can convince the city to paint them. Does anyone know how to write an urban beautification project work order? And how long do you suppose it would take to fulfill?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Let's Ride

I must be nuts not to own a working car in the city infamous for its Freeways and interchanges, Gas(tronomical) prices and SUVs.

You know, the city where nobody walks.

At least, that's what everyone tells me.

I can't say that I mind so much. I live just outside the "City" of Santa Monica, which is entirely indistinguishable from every other "City" within the urban sprawl known as Los Angeles. I work, sorting nuts, in an office that's a bit west of Downtown, a bit North of Koreatown, and doesn't exactly have a "town" to call its own.

I pay a whopping $2 $12 a month for my transportation. All of it. My boss pays for the rest of the $52 $62 monthly pass.

I love LA.

Update: The monthly fare is now $62, as of May 2007