Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Olympic NP, First half of Week Three

First half of Week Three Highlights, abbreviated

Day 13: We prep the exchange house for departure, which doesn’t take a lot of effort: washing sheets and towels, and making sure we’ve got all our stuff in the car. On the way to the Olympic National Park, we stop in Olympia for lunch with an ex-Levi’s (THB) and ex-Wells (DB) friend, Ana. Lunch on the Sound; it’s low tide so we have excellent views of the mud flats. And, to remind us that we are still in the NW, it is grey and rainy (all day, no matter where we are today, all day). Salmon for DB, fish and chips for Ana and THB. And, because Ana is a locsal, we manage a stop at Wagners, a local German style bakery, for a Danish “crisp” and ultra sweet cinnamon bread (see pics)

Arrive at the Lake Quinalt Lodge (on Lake Quinalt, see pics from two days) for what is supposed to be three nights and most likely will turn into two as we are contemplating the lack of available hiking windows due to weather. In meantime, we take a short walk along the road (it starts raining on the way back, so the walk wasn’t quite short enough), then dinner at the lodge: soup and smoked salmon salad for DB, THB has pasta primavera, wine and beer, $55.

Day 14: Sweet potato pancakes (pancakes are good, not sure how sweet potato-y they are) and bacon, decaf, $22, in the lodge dining room. Then a longish drive into the NP to the Hoh River rain forest where, for the select few, THB is now able to buy a lifetime NP pass for…for…THB is embarrassed to say how much this lifetime (as long as THB is in the car, the car and everyone else in the car is free) pass is…it is $10. Yes, our government in all its wisdom has decided that the boomers with all their disposable income can visit any NP while they are still alive and get in for a total one-time fee of $10. TEN BUCKS! The fee to enter Olympic NP is $15, so we saved $5 on our very first usage of the lifetime pass. Oh, there is a catch: the pass is clearly labeled Senior Pass…so, ya gotta say you’re a senior from this point on.

And, for those of you wondering, since now THB (and DB) are the golden age of 62 (hey, why didn’t they call it a Golden Pass?), THB is collecting social security, direct deposit every month.

We take two pretty decent short nature hikes. The sun even comes out for a while (the only time today that happened). We see an elk (at a distance, see pic), a frog (nowadays a pretty rare occurrence), some sort of black mole (very unusual), and birds. Nature, and not just trees, is alive in the rain forest! Lunch is a picnic on Ruby Beach ($13 for DB, THB does top shelf from the cooler). The NP is huge and round, in the center of the peninsula, and then separately a ribbon running down the Pacific coastline, so we are actually dining in the NP. Dinner at the Lodge again, same same but different, $72.

Book Review:
A Rope and a Prayer: A Kidnapping from Two Sides, David Rohde and Kristen Mulvihill, Audio book. Another book that is dramatically enhanced by being listened to rather than read, because the authors take turns narrating their own sections, and their different voices really come through. Rohde, a NYT journalist, is kidnapped by the Taliban warlord he went to interview in Afghanistan as part of a book he is writing. His bride of two months, Kristen, and his brother, Lee, take on the effort of coordinating his release, from NY. David intersperses historical pieces on Afghanistan and Pakistan and Islam among the sections describing his captivity (7 months, 2009-10), along with his local guide and driver. Kristen gives a very evenhanded view of what it is like to negotiate the halls of US government involvement while trying to figure out what she and Lee can do to both protect David and his fellow captives while trying to effect their release (not easy to do!), and represent David’s family interests. Highly recommended, even though David makes a futile pitch in the epilogue for how to best solve the issues besetting this part of the world. (amazing, considered he just spent his half of the book explaining how complex the area is, even without US involvement). And, if you are one of those people that try to figure out if it is luck or skill when you see a compatible couple, this is a great book for realizing that sometimes it pays to be both lucky and skillful: true on David’s part, Kristen stood up big time for her hubby of two months…Kristen, not so lucky!

Book Review:
Next, James Hynes, Kindle Edition. Believe or not, finished same day we wrap up A Rope and a Prayer. UH OH!! Unfortunately for Kevin Quinn, the narrator of Next, neither prayer nor a rope saves him. The entire book takes place in less than 7 hours actual time, in Austin, with Quinn in town for a job interview and, through memory associations in Ann Arbor, where Quinn has lived and worked his entire life, reviewing his adult relationships with four women. all while meandering around Austin prior to the interview. Fast paced, especially the last 20% which flies by, and much the male-oriented view of life (i.e., through his dick more than his mind or emotions). Highly recommended, save some free hours cuz you are gonna wanna finish without interruptions when you get past the halfway point.

Book Review: The Hard Way Around: The Passages of Joshua Slocum, Geoff Wolff, Kindle edition. How can THB read so many books? Well, the answer is: THB is willing to give up on a silly book rather early (see Freedom). This is another one that THB cannot figure out how it got such a good review and thus made it onto his list. It is a send-up of the late 1800s, early 1900s exploration biographies (a genre THB thinks highly of, see the Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, and others) and novelizations. It is too tongue in cheek. THB gives up very early. To provide balance, Wolff and his brother wrote memoirs of their childhoods, one spent with mom, the other with dad. GW’s book is The Duke of Deception (obviously dad), highly recommended, as is Tobias Wolff’s book, This Boy’s Life.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Seattle, Week 2, second half, words and pics

Last Half of Week Two Highlights

Day 8: Slow start, since THB had a huge meal, stayed up for a while to aid in digestion, and got up way too early (because THB always gets up way too early). We had thought about making a trek to Mt Rainier NP and maybe a short hike or two below the snow line. Plans are flexible, right? Good thing, cuz DB looks at the weather report and the projection is for snow today….instead….

We run a few easy errands, and decide to walk neighborhoods. Ballard is first: we eat lunch at La Carta de Oaxaca, sharing a tamale lightly seasoned with mole and chicken smothered in a deep mole, both different and very good, fresh tortillas and tamarind aqua fresco, $26.

Then we wander around Fremont. Not much to report, both neighborhoods are very quiet. See pics, of the sky. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS, there’s blue up there! Oh, and since the temp starts out in low 50s, it was a bit chilly until early afternoon.

Decide to take it easy in evening: pupus and gimlets and an episode of The Wire, season 3 (skip season 2)

Day 9: DB is off to spend the day with SNAG conference, THB has a variety of activities. First THB picks up an art purchase from Grover/Thurston Gallery, yet another Terry Terrell piece (no pic, it is wrapped up). Then THB returns to the house and takes a bike ride along the Burke-Gilman trail. Ahhhhh, there’s nothing like taking a ride in the low 50s and the potential for rain. Then in the afternoon, THB plays bridge in a local sectional, finds a partner at the front desk. The guy is very nice, knows a lot of conventions, and OOOOPS seems to be at trick short on every hand. It is a very pleasant afternoon, we don’t score well…and it is raining big drops (and sunny) when THB leaves. Having not bothered with a jacket, THB gets wet.

Then we meet up at the house, and immediately turn around and drive back in Wallingford (remember Tilth? very close…), for dinner at Cantinetta. Another treasure!! Fava beans with shaved pecorino, rhubarb with gorgonzola and almonds, and three pastas: tubes with garlic, chard and chilis; linguini with meat balls; and tortellini with pork filling and charred ramps in broth. Why did we have three pasta dishes? Because they brought the linguini by mistake and THB tried it before deciding it wasn’t what he ordered. All great!! For dessert, warm doughnuts filled with hot liquid chocolate. All these dishes were superb!! Bottle of wine, total $120.

Day 10:
Up early for a pair of house tours with the Art Jewelry Forum crowd, in town for the annual metalsmith conference. First, we just manage to fit in another breakfast at Macrina Bakery, this time at the location in Belltown. A gem!!! Brioche, plum snail, and morning bun, and a very weak decaf au lait for THB and … oh, yeah, DB had a triple shot latte (and some of THB’s pastry).

House tours: first a collector in a remodeled house in Queen Anne, with great views of the city and sound. Two of the local artists are there to talk about their work, one of whom, Maria, we had a tour of her gallery show and dinner with last week. House is small and on three levels, and the art looks great! Second stop is at a just-leaving-the-AJF board member’s house in Magnolia who, along with her admin responsibilities, is also a quiet accomplished jewelry artist. She has invited four just-beginning artists, and the five of them talk about their work and backgrounds. And, a house tour, where much of the art is jewelry extremely well displayed. And, she also has great views of the city and the sound.

After we return to downtown, we tour the outdoor sculpture garden just north of downtown; it is gorgeous out, sunny, (DAMN, SUNNY) and in the low 60s. Pieces look great….and we catch another wedding party taking their own pictures. Something tells me they had a pop-up wedding: the first sunny weekend day, let’s get out there and do this thing.

Back to the house to rest up, then back downtown to Restaurant Zoe for dinner. This was where we first stepped on the path to drinking hard alcohol, trying lemon drops. Ahhhhhhhhhh, what a great 5 years it has been! We share an arugula salad, and then small plates of gnudi for DB and a strip steak with extremely thin shoestring potatoes for THB, side of escarole, mandarin drop, lemon drop, and two free drinks on the house (just lucky, THB guesses?), $72.

Book Review: William Golding, a biography, by John Carey. A flattering, chronological, not toooooo psychoanalytic telling of the life of the guy that wrote Lord of the Flies and a bunch of other books that THB believes not too many other people remember reading. LOTF was his first book, written in his 30s while teaching school, and clearly his biggest seller (it is still going strong, 58 years later). It was rejected over and over, and the young editor that finally pushed to publish also saved it out of the rejection pile and fought for it. That made both their careers. The guy won the Nobel Prize, beating out Graham Greene at the time, which to THB seems bizarre. Actually, THB highly recommends Sherry’s bio of GG, read those volumes over this one….and, GG’s books, many of them spectacular reads, even today.

Day 11:
Well, back to the norm, the sun does not come out at all today. Nada…zilch….total grayout. At least the temp hovers right around 60 all day. Ahhhhhhhh, the coldest (or is it the wettest?) spring on record (according to THB’s constant monitoring of the weather across this great land). Pre-brunch snacks of Macrina muffin (DB) and scone (THB)

Meg Ford comes over for brunch, bringing a leek quiche (leeks from her garden) and we supply the berries, cherries, and Macrina baguette (how can every loaf THB takes a pic of be missing a heel?). It’s good to catch up, Meg once spent a week with us (artist in residence, literally!) fixing one of the three ceramic/wood pieces we have (the stick figures, see pic) and is a sharp cookie. And, she helps explain the house layout that many of these Seattle bungalows share: Craftsman kits! Many have been expanded over time, and if they didn’t alter the roofline, then you get these sloping closets or minimally refinished attics.

After brunch, THB and DB visit the Frye Museum, the main attraction is a series of videos (and some of the clothes and props from the videos) by a group called the Degenerate Art Ensemble. Must be better in person, the videos are very flat and uninteresting (think Matthew Barney without Serra or Bjork guest appearances…or even with them).

THB takes another bike ride along the Burke-Gilman trail, a few more hardy souls today out there for a ride…one passes THB and comments on what a beautiful summer we’re having here in Seattle.

Dinner at Etta’s, right downstairs from our 2006 house exchange, with Susan B. Coho salmon (DB and SB), roast chicken (THB), spinach salad, grilled asparagus, drinks and a bottle of Newton Chardonnay (good!), $190.

Day 12:
Another walk around Green Lake, puttering around, and then DB goes off for lunch with Karen (the person that hooked us up with our current exchangers 5 years ago) and Sally (from second house tour two days ago). THB goes off the Mariners vs Orioles, and with moderate sun (and no rain in the forecast) the giant roof is open (see pics). Lunch: brought sandwich and miscellany, one microbrew, $9.75. The game is mildly interesting…the M’s win, in a sloppy effort, and THB has been to the park before. Note the massive roof! Damn, it’s big! And, it is actually sunny (note repetition, why is THB doing that in an abbreviated update?).

Dinner with art jewelry crowd at Flying Fish. Sweet potato curry seafood dish for THB and tuna for DB, and a shared chocolate and ice cream dessert. With drinks and wine from Yakima, around $140.