Archive for July, 2019

A Seattle Digestif

July 12-13, 2019

We drove out of the gray and towards Bainbridge Island, where we’d catch a ferry to Seattle. It was well past time for lunch, so I picked a city on the map at random, which turned out to be a charming, Norwegian-themed Poulsbo. We ate overlooking the harbor, nearly overheating in the mid-70’s temperatures.


I must have taken a car ferry before, but I have no clear memory of doing so. I was worried about how it would work, but it’s all very easy and well-organized. The intent is to make it seem an extension of the road. Signs on the road pointed to the ferry, and all three lanes passed by booths, where we paid and were directed to a numbered lane.


It was thrilling and strange to drive into the bowels of the ship, park, and be allowed to walk to the open front that had no real railings, just a net. The kid in me kept expecting to get told to get back in the car, or to go to the passenger seating above.


It was such a relief to be back in a bustling city. Even the quarter-mile drive from the ferry to the hotel had my mind reeling. What a cute restaurant. Is that Pioneer Square? Nice clothing store. Seattle Art Museum–Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement. I’m going!

R. passed out on the very comfy king-sized hotel bed, so I met my brother and sis-in-law for dinner at a whiskey-themed restaurant in Pike Market. Crowded, loud, with barrel-aged Manhattans and cute, sweaty cooks shaking stainless steel pans over high-flames in the open kitchen…ahhhhhhhh…city living.

The next day I wandered through Pike Market. It’s a tourist attraction but genuinely interesting with its multiple levels and uneven floors and dead ends. I like it!


I also went to the museum to see the Victorian Radicals exhibit. I loved the pre-Raphaelites when I was a teen, but to my adult eye, much of it seemed overwrought and pouty…hmmmm…much like the teenage girl I was. I was happy to see some really awesome work by woman artists, and which I thought was technically better than that of their more famous male counterparts.


As the afternoon wore on I ran out of steam. Brain full. I was ready to go home. I think this was one of the more intense seven-day trips I’ve taken recently. Waterfalls, trains, Bollywood, Twin Peaks, family, bonfires, kayaks, gun batteries, the submarine I forgot to mention, bocce, cocktails, the flu that swept through the big house that I also forgot to mention, flightless geese, cider, sad goodbyes, ferries, harbors, Seattle stairs, eating dinner twice in one night, pouty art subjects and finally the flight home. R. and I both woke multiple times Saturday night with no idea where we were – and more importantly where the bathroom was. He got dressed to go and I asked why, and he replied because of everyone in house. Heh.


A cement factory on the way to the airport

Sunday, San Francisco put on a show for me. The sunny blocks around my house sported dog walkers, kids in bouncy houses, couples drinking rose and laughing in the park, fresh fruit at the corner store, people jaywalking to get to the cafe, the inevitable weekend construction projects that irritate me but also ensure this neighborhood will still be here 100 years from now.

I’m so lucky to have a place I’m happy to take off from and happy to come home to.


50 Shades of Gray in Port Townsend and Fort Worden

July 8-11, 2019

We drove south from Snoqualmie through Tacoma instead of taking a car ferry, which let us avoid Seattle completely and takes the same amount of time even though it’s more mileage. I’m not sure of Tacoma’s reputation, but what we saw of it was interesting–steep and nestled on the side of a hill with great old buildings. They have a really nice art store–better than anything we have in San Francisco at the moment. I got watercolor supplies as I’d determined at the last minute to do one painting per day to brush up on my skills (so to speak – ha ha!). (Spoiler alert – I only did two but that was better than I expected.)

From there we drove north, seeing mostly trees and occasional glimpses of Puget sound and working ports. To my surprise, the landscape became drier (compared to Snoqualmie). Not super dry, just not the lush wetness I’d expected. Maybe the Olympic National park grabs up all the rain in the summer?


Awesome drive-in movie theater on the way to Port Townsend. I wish I’d gone! 

I’d expected Port Townsend to feel more isolated, but there were towns, houses, farms, and businesses all along the way and no real sense of transition when we arrived.

First stop, Safeway to get snacks, as I feared that once we arrived at Fort Worden the family reunion would be ON and it would be hard to get away. The store was lively and I got a kind of Sebastopol feel from the clientele…tattoos, hippy vibe, some colored hair, teen dressed in a candy-raver outfit, a few down and outers in faded cotton with tattered sandals. We ran into my aunt and uncle there (they came from British Columbia for the reunion) which was a fun surprise.

We drove down the main street and it was cute as promised, but smaller scale than I’d expected, maybe a dozen small blocks. Much evidence of artsy-ness though, and probably more bookstores per capita than SF has.


It’s breaking my designer heart not to tweak the contrast on this,
but mid-level gray is most accurate.

The homes, once we turned onto a neighborhood street, were nicer and more upscale than I’d expected. All very well maintained, a mix of older and more modern structures, and with great landscaping and gardens. The place feels prosperous and I began to wonder who lives there and what they do for a living.

After only a few minutes, we arrived at Fort Worden. The town is small! I’ve been imagining and planning for this and somehow I misread the scale and assumed anything on a peninsula was the size of San Francisco.

I didn’t have high hopes for Fort Worden (it being a state park and me knowing that contracts to run these places often go to vendors that don’t feel the love) but overall it was very nice. It’s a late 1800’s military base that’s been converted to a park and conference center. The forts built in this era (for coastal defense) all look a bit alike, with many nondescript two-to-three story wooden buildings, plus fancy houses for the officers. They’ve done a great job repurposing the place, and now it’s got a nice restaurant, woodworking center, small press, marine center and museum, campgrounds, fitness center, a college of some sort, and is home to other arty-sounding organizations (based on the signs on windows). There was a painting workshop going on while we were there, and a week-long writer’s workshop starting next week.


Victorian (as advertised)? I guess? Definitely in need of fresh paint.
That’s my house (left side only – they are duplexes.)

Our extended family rented four officer’s houses, all next to each other. Though they were built in the Victorian era, from the outside they weren’t really classic Victorian looking (to my eye), and all were a bit drab and in need of a fresh coat of paint.

The elders got the fanciest house, a Commander’s unit with six bedrooms. The interior was lovingly restored to Victorian splendor, with nice carpets and wallpaper and books and art and decorative plates, mirrors and antique clocks. All that stuff. A little too fussy “bed and breakfast” for my taste but well done.

We popped in there to get the key to our place, hugged a few people, and hurried to our house to unload the perishable groceries…and…our house was SUPER CRAPPY. Stained grey industrial carpeting, no art other than a few lame photos of cannons that were too small for the frames, peeling paint on the ceiling, beige walls chipped and gouged, no decorative plates, no fancy lamps on marble side tables – nothing! Not that it was empty. We had a couch and two chairs in the living room, a dining table that seated six–but the wooden chairs were missing crucial pieces that made me nervous to sit in them. The bedrooms were awkwardly furnished, ours having an oversized wooden dresser placed in front of the window (partially blocking the view), a table in the corner perhaps meant to serve as a desk, but with no chair, and a double bed that clearly was not going to hold two full-sized adults comfortably.


There was only one shower for the seven of us staying there, and the bathroom looked like something from a prison. They’d screwed a piece of frosted plexiglass over the window so we couldn’t open it. Why??

That aside, all the houses had great, deep porches and those were tons of fun. We moved from porch to porch throughout the days, socializing. We’d gather at the big house in the afternoon (they had the most chairs) and have drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The houses fronted a huge lawn (aka the parade ground) and the smaller kids ran wild there and it was easy to keep an eye on them. My aunt, super sweet of her, brought a fully-loaded piñata and got us all out on the lawn the first night to wack it. It was a great way to see and greet everyone because, due to being in four separate houses, we were never quite sure where anyone was at any given time. Though I’d have liked us to be all together more often (we were only all together twice) it would have been like herding cats to try to coordinate group activities.


Okay, the weather was occasionally very nice. But only for a few hours, so I don’t have to change the title of the post. 

Instead, we randomly encountered each other and spent time in smaller groups hanging out on the beach, walking to town, going to the store, visiting the light house, checking out the marine mammal center, hiking on the hill, kayaking, grabbing lunch, playing bocce or board games, etc. It worked out well.

The weather was mostly shades of gray with occasional sun and rain. Not cold. The temperature was very pleasant. Oddly, the grayness had a kind of glare that irritated my eyes. A bright diffuse light that came from everywhere and nowhere. I didn’t want to wear sunglasses because that made things too dark, but I kept my hat on, brim pulled low, to deal with it.


As I walked the beaches and the charming streets, I hoped I’d fall in love with Port Townsend but I never did. It has the right elements on paper, but in real life it didn’t work for me. Firstly, where were all the people? I know it’s a small town but the residential streets were deserted. I could walk all the way from the fort to the downtown and see no creature but deer (which were weirdly lounging all over the place). No one mowing the lawn, no one washing their car, no one biking. So freaking odd. Clearly people live there because of the immaculate yards. I like neighborhoods to have people in them. The dead end street I live on in San Francisco, which has about 50 houses on it, is abuzz with activity on a normal day. I guess that sounds hellish to those that prefer the peace and quiet of small towns but I love it.


The beaches and water views were nice, but not as dramatic as I expected. I thought I’d sit on the bluff and watch the clouds drift around and the light play on the water and the mood shift but nothing much happened. It was like being on a lake, with no waves, just a gentle lapping on the shore. The tide did go in and out, but that just meant more rocks exposed, less rocks exposed. The sand is a grayish tan, and the bluffs are made of the same. The rocks and pebbles are kind of nice but I was hard-pressed to find any I wanted to add to my collection. The huge driftwood logs on the shore are interesting but you get used to them.


Does this look like heaven? You should move to Port Townsend!

I guess, bottom line, peaceful, gray, quiet coastlines aren’t my thing. My soul did not connect with that landscape.


I did like all the bird sounds everywhere. That was really nice. And I saw an eagle! I’m not sure I’ve seen one in real life before.


I feel like not being able to see beauty everywhere is a kind of personal failing, along the lines of, “only boring people get bored,” but aesthetics are subjective. And listen – I tried to take nice, artsy pictures here but I struggled. I didn’t feel moved. Rarely did I grab my camera and think – I’ve got to get this right now. I had to pull myself out of the gray and think – I might be able to do something with this later. And as I write this post, the photos look nice and I feel happier looking at them then I did being in the place, which is weird.

beach bonfire

One of my favorite places was not in Port Townsend, but 11 miles south in Chimacum–Finnriver farm and cidery.


It’s an organic farm with a huge covered seating area where they serve food and (obviously) cider, and have guest food trucks and music and other events.


The evening we were there, a woman hosted a science fiction trivia night in a room off the bar. They had bocce and cornhole and hula hoops, and the setting was lovely–it felt like I was in Napa or Sonoma valley.


Overall, the family reunion was a success, and Fort Worden was a good place for it. If we’d have been somewhere more exciting we’d probably have never seen each other at all. This event was about spending time with people, not sightseeing. I was really sad when everyone began to pack up and drive away on Friday. All my whining about wanting us to have held the reunion in Hawaii was me wanting a vacation, and overlooking the reason for the trip–which was family bonding. Yeah, I like vacation but I’ve got to devote more time to the extended family. They aren’t gray–they are amazing, interesting, creative people and I love them.


Snoqualmie, Washington (pre-family reunion)

Monday, July 8, 2019

I’m sitting on a balcony at the Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie, Washington. It’s cloudy, and is either raining or else heavily misting so I’ve got an umbrella propped up on the table in a vain attempt to keep my computer dry. It’s the kind of rain that you really can’t hide from–it swirls and floats right under the umbrella. The waterfall below is doing its thing, which is to provide a pleasant and uniform white noise.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We are headed to Port Townsend, Washington for a family reunion. I know, I know, everyone tells me, “It’s beautiful there,” and I’m sure it will be, but I’ve got to kvetch a bit first, because it isn’t fair that I open with arriving there all awestruck by the lovely.

I love my extended family. I feel really lucky to be born into a family of interesting people who get along very well. Our only struggle is that we’ve got a lot of Type A’s and that sometimes leads to everyone trying to be the sheepdog and no one wanting to be a sheep, but that’s not so bad.

My complaint is that I’ve got a full time job and my vacation time is precious. When I take a week off it’s a big deal and I want to go somewhere I want to go. So you say “Family Reunion” and I say “in Hawaii! In Mexico! Somewhere in the southwest!” not – somewhere where it’s going to be 64 degrees, partly cloudy, and sometimes raining. Because that sounds a lot like a foggy day in San Francisco.


What’s worse is that if I wasn’t lazy and distracted by work, I probably could have found some great house in Hawaii and pitched it to the group and maybe I’d be in Hawaii right now, eating pineapple and getting ready to go snorkeling. So, it’s my own fault I did nothing and let someone else herd the cats.

Anyhow, Saturday we flew from San Francisco to Seattle. The brown haze covering the central valley gave way to clouds as we travelled north. The car rental place ran out of small cars so we ended up in a huge four-door Cadillac. We thought it might be fun, but it’s too big–we don’t know where we begin and end, but it does have great acceleration.

We came a few days early (the reunion for some reason runs Monday – Friday) to check out the Salish Lodge, aka the Great Northern hotel in Twin Peaks. The waterfall below me is the one featured in the opening credits, as is this hotel, perched on the cliff above it. (I was a big Twin Peaks fan back in the day, and R. only discovered it recently and is a current fan).

What’s odd is that Snoqualmie is kind of in the middle of nowhere and kind of not. It’s only 40 minutes from Seattle and when we sit in the restaurant all we see is trees forever, but it’s really just off the freeway.

When we arrived we were both kind of tired from the flight, which is silly because it was only an hour and a half, but the whole airport experience is always draining. R. laid down for a nap and I decided to walk into town, which is less than a mile away. I crossed a cool bridge, and in the pretty river below were the remnants of a collapsed bridge. Not too far past that, the Northwest Railway Museum has old train cars right along the road. Very nice!


The town itself is small with a few restaurants, an intriguing-looking bowling alley I didn’t go into, and a great hardware store that I did.

When I got back, R. and I went to the overlooks near the hotel to view the falls. It’s a very nice waterfall and I liked it, but it’s only a couple hundred feet. It’s hard to beat Yosemite Falls (which is over 2000 feet and you can stand right at the base of it.) Also, it was a total mob scene due to the long weekend, and we had to wait to get a spot at the railing.


We ate at the casual restaurant, The Attic, at the hotel. The food was good, and went to bed early.

This is a very nice hotel. My only complaint is that there is no common area with a view. I like being able to bring my laptop to the lobby or café and get something to drink and write and people-watch. The lobby is nothing to speak of–a few chairs clearly meant only for waiting for the rest of your party to join you before you get the car. There is no separate bar area. The Attic is fairly small and people eat at the bar, and you certainly couldn’t set up a laptop there. Any spot with a view is reserved for private events. This balcony is nice, but the continuous hiss of the falls does get irritating after while, and there is no people watching.

Sunday morning we had a GREAT breakfast here in the fancy restaurant. Sadly I couldn’t finish it all, which is a crime. They have there own beehives here and do a fun thing where they dribble honey on a scone from three feet above it.


I coaxed R. into going into town on foot (past all the neat old train cars on the side of the road). We wanted to ride the historic train, which isn’t a historic train exactly but random historic train cars pulled by a modern diesel engine. We bought tickets online as we walked, which was lucky because it was sold out…because….Bollywood film crew!!

The conductor (very cute in his conductor outfit) let us know a Bollywood film crew would be filming on the train, and that they’d be in the center car. They let them on first. It seemed to be cast, crew, and their extended families. We got onto the front car to stay out of the fray, and because it had cool red velvet couches.


It turned out they were actually doing the filming in our car – which was really fun and made what would have been a pretty ridiculously short train ride a lot of fun. The train only goes a couple miles south to North Bend – which had more Twin Peaks buildings and really nice steep high mountains behind it (Mt. Si maybe?), and then reverses and goes back past the station it left from, and one more mile to the hydro electric museum and supposed views of the falls but you can’t actually see them because of land and trees. So, it’s a pretty silly ride. However – a few minutes in – after we opened and closed the windows to suit the women sitting next to us, the film crew came in with a huge camera, a boombox, and started filming the male star walking down the aisle, finding his love sitting alone on a seat, tapping her on the shoulder, then sitting next to her after which they hold hands and gleefully look out the window.

It was great fun to watch, and I loved that we didn’t have to sign releases and they probably didn’t have permits or anything. They did have super expensive equipment so I have no idea if this is a “real” movie or what. I liked that the main actress was not thin and she was nice and friendly and said hi when we stopped for half an hour at another part of the railroad museum.


Back at the hotel I napped for an hour (I had a terrible sleep Saturday night) and then took a walk to the base of the falls. The forest here is so beautiful. So many different types of trees and the ground so lush with a wild variety of plants. We don’t have that in California–it’s just too dry. All I could think though on the super steep walk down was “I’m going to have to walk back up this. It’s going to suck. OMG, all these little kids. They are going to have to be carried back up. What are the parents thinking? Oh those shoes! She’s going to break an ankle!”

I might walk a little way down again today and just sit on a bench and listen to the birds and stare at the plants and try to quiet my crazy mind. I think of myself as a pretty laid back person but when I get out to actual nature like this I realize I must be pretty wound up in the city because it’s really hard for me to stop analyzing and just look around and absorb.

The path didn’t get that close to the base of the falls and the view was just okay. The walk down was the pretty part.

We drove into town for Mexican food (so so) and watched the end of the final match of the Gold Cup soccer game. Back at the hotel we had a drink at the bar.

This morning, Monday, started cool and rainy and is now partly clearing, and warming up a bit. We ordered room service (always a fun treat) and split the enormous eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, scone breakfast meant for one. Mmmm. In an hour we check out and hit the road for Port Townsend! I’m so happy I don’t have to spell Snoqualmie ever again!