Seattle Part II – sulking garlic and a little craft beer………

‘Just living is not enough…… one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower’ – Hans Christian Anderson

One of the best things about Seattle is that it is a walkers’ city so pull on those comfy shoes and hit those cobblestone streets, brick paved alley-ways, paths and hills and enjoy.  We struck lovely weather whilst in Seattle, blue skies and sunshine which is a perfect combo for walking.  I was given a little tip too for venturing out and about which was ‘take a brolly’ as the weather in Seattle can be somewhat inclement.  Apparently, when it rains it rains……and then it will rain some more………

This city has a lot to offer but much of Seattle’s unique charm can be found in the underbelly of its quirky, often gentrified, waterfront and vibrant urban neighbourhoods with most so close to the city you can just stroll to them.   Here you will happen upon charming houses, parks and green spaces, sculptures, lovingly tended gardens and galleries and you will constantly catch glimpses of beautiful Puget Sound.

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Visit places like Belltown where it is all about the waterfront and for a little elegance try Capitol Hill and Ballard but if like me, you seek a colourful and passionate neighbourhood with a social conscience for activism then Fremont is the place to be (raise that fist and insert a rally cry at your leisure)…….YEAH!!

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I will always believe that the world can be changed by action, tolerance and humanity.  If you know something is not right then you have a moral obligation to stand up and do something about it!  And don’t just talk about it either.  Hollow words accomplish  nothing.  Actually DO something because change can only be achieved through your actions, not your opinions or comments.  And don’t turn to malevolence, hyperbole and anger either in order to fight your fight.  Leave that to other guys because that’s all they know.

Seattle and its neighbourhoods have an impressive food scene and every taste and budget is catered for.  You will find everything from street food, food trucks, casual cheap eats to high-end expensive restaurants.  Seafood is a big winner given it is so fresh and accessible but there is so much more on offer from the simple sandwich, vegan to duck fat dumplings to dry aged steaks and again, fabulous coffee abounds.

One of the big draw cards for Seattle is craft beer.   I think if you go to Seattle and don’t try a craft brew it would be like, I don’t know……. going to Seattle and not casting your gaze upon the Space Needle!   So line up those tasting paddles at any one of a number of very impressive micro-breweries, nano-breweries and craft beer houses and sit back and appreciate a darn good brewskie.

Now although I do enjoy a brew-pub, I tend to favour the nano-breweries.  These are the really small, independent operations which turn out impressive and high quality yet limited quantities of beer batches. These places are all about great industrial  spaces, people who love their product, milk crate seating and blackboard menus and when that batch of beer runs out, then it is pretty much gone for good.

These places have a ‘hip, kick back and chill vibe’ and we started to seek them out after one of our first encounters with one set up in a shipping container in South Carolina.  It was here we discovered ‘Bowens Island Oyster Stout’ and the joy of chocolate covered bacon.  And yes, bacon and dark chocolate is gold my friends 🙂   This oyster stout, made by Holy City Brewing, is my absolute favorite beer of all time.  I love it and I cannot buy it in Australia, nor anything remotely close to it and trust me, I have been working my way through some impressive stouts to find one.

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I am absolutely smitten with this defining image of the Seattle skyline.   The Space Needle…….

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Although this was built in 1962 for the World Fair I still think it is a super modern ‘Jetsons’ inspired symbol which I also happen to find super cool.  I love the colour scheme too – Galaxy Gold (which is actually tangerine), Orbital Olive and Re-entry Red.

I also found the architecture in Seattle stunningly beautiful.  I am a lover of all things art deco so some of the sculptured buildings, especially the Museum of Pop Culture, with its perfectly synchronised union between modern Avant-garde, deco and steel greatly appealed to me. I literally spent hours just marveling at the forms and shapes and designs.

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In all that I loved about Seattle, one of my favorite memories was of a roof top community garden.  One of the volunteers at the garden mentioned it has been referred to as the ‘secret garden’ as although the location is tourist central, right on top of Pike Place Market, the garden often gets little in the way of visitors.

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This wonderful urban oasis, manned by a dedicated team of volunteers, provides fresh veggies and fruit to ‘The Food Bank’ and the ‘Seniors Centre’.  Residents from the Seniors Centre also come to garden and to socialise which I think is really lovely.  With its raised garden beds of vegetables and flowers, fruit trees, container planting, random seating and its impressive views of Elliot Bay and the Seattle waterfront it is the perfect place to gain a little respite from the maddening crowds of the markets.

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I appreciate anything that can unite a community and this enchanting space, where moments of grace and kindness collide, will cure just about any affliction.   On good days, on difficult days and on all the days in between this garden would be a lovely place to spend a few moments each day.  Imagine more city community gardens and less car parks and concrete.  I certainly can.

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Some of my favourite moments in Seattle were those spent just quietly watching the sun wink off Elliot Bay and considering the beauty of the garden while deep in thought on that roof top space.  Life’s transition was taking place.  A dislocation between what had been and of what lay ahead in arduous and uncertain times all contemplated in the presence of small windows of hope.  The garden it seems, was symbolic in that it shows when you put love, energy and time into something it will grow, reveal itself and flourish.

Once settled in Australia, I made my own small oasis of solitude.  I have planted containers of flowers, herbs and veggies and it has become a little space to sit, write and to play a little scrabble every now and then.  Zoe loves this garden too and the sunshine cast upon it however my tip would be not to play scrabble with cheeky little cats as they tend to make up their own words.  I do allow it though, given she is so sweet……

Gardening is comparable to life in that you have no real control over it.   Currently here in New South Wales we are experiencing catastrophic bush fire conditions and merciless heat waves with temperatures at times reaching the high 40’s which is around 118 Fahrenheit.  Somehow though, my little garden is surviving the heat.  I have learnt some lessons gardening this way too such as my coriander will bolt straight to seed with little in the way of leaves to harvest and my garlic will sit sullenly in its pot with little growth however chilli plants absolutely thrive.

Sometimes perspective and hope are difficult to find, especially in the darkest of hours but when I think back on these terrible times I have for the most, a grateful heart.  As achingly painful as it has all been I have learnt so much but most importantly, I have learnt perseverance and to know that I have courage to never ever give up.  I have also learnt that you need to stay optimistic, focused and that you must always have hope.

Perhaps every now and then we all just need to find our small space in this big world and spend a little time in a garden, seek out some sunshine and a little flower or two to allow us to realise how truly fortunate we all really are.   And next stop, ‘The Last Frontier’,  Alaska…. xx

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Nothing says summer like glorious frangipani…….

 

 

Streptococcus, the slut and flying fish in Seattle…….

‘Hey baby I hear the blues a callin’……..

There is a smell about Seattle.  A really good smell.  A lovely salty floral smell which seems to continually drift from that remarkable stretch of Puget Sound.

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I was fascinated with this oceanic inlet where on wonderfully clear days, which happily ours were, you could see in the distance the majestic hulking beauty of the Olympic Mountain ranges.  Puget Sound is also the second largest estuary in the USA.  It is not only famous for its salmon runs of Humpback, Coho, Chinook, Sockeye and Dolly Varden but there are also Orcas, harbor seals, porpoise, sturgeons, cods, rays and an abundance of sea birds.  These beautiful waters, dotted with oyster and mussel farms, fishing boats, ferries and sail boats really is a refuge to an amazing marine population.

August through to September is apparently the preferred times to visit Seattle and I would guess, as with most places so far north, the winters would be somewhat challenging but I think anytime would be a perfect time to visit this lovely seaport city.

So how does one spend time in Seattle.  Well I spent mine roaming about, taking photographs, documenting my thoughts, watching the sound and just soaking up the city.  And did you know Bruce Lee’s grave is also in Seattle!  I didn’t until I arrived.

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One place you should include on your ‘to-do-list’ if you ever happen Seattle way and I hope you do, is Pike Place Market.  I really don’t think I would ever tire of this market place.  A blatantly touristy, noisy and crowed yet uniquely charming spot overlooking Elliot Bay.  It is full to bursting with fresh flowers, fresh seafood, artesian breads, full service butchers which means they will also break a bird down for you, fresh eggs including that of tiny quail, $400 per pound rare black truffles, cheeses, seasonal fruit and veg, arts and crafts, restaurants, buskers, baked goods, spices and teas.  Markets always seem to reveal great characters and Pike Place was no different with its mix of eccentric and no-bullshit-taking vendors.

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The sound of these markets is incredible.  The din of chatter, the yelling of the fishmongers, the slap of massive slabs of salmon onto stainless steel filleting tables, the clatter and clamor and commotion has all become part of this markets unique charm along with the famous flying fish.   It’s an old Seattle fishmonger tradition which goes a little like this – the customer selects the fish, the fishmonger then picks up the fish and throws it to another fishmonger for the fish to be weighed, dressed and wrapped.

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There are warning signs for ‘low flying fish’……..

Our most memorable meals of Seattle were at Pike Place.  Bowls of fresh clam chowder were consumed and we devoured fresh oysters by the dozen and drank local beer from big frozen glass mugs at Athenian, the unofficial watering hole for the market workers.  And the oysters were good.  Fresh, briny and smelling of the sea.  And just like a beautiful yet complex Japanese tea ceremony, there is also a bit of an art to consuming these little bivalves which involves a tiny fork, one chew to release the cream, savor then swallow.  Perfect!

Something I very happily discovered at these markets too was that unmistakable yet comforting smell of hot cinnamon donuts.  ‘Hot Cinnamon Sugar Baby Donuts’ to be precise which were pure little parcels of absolute joy and you can buy them by the dozen.   And I did!

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Now for some urban grunge.   And I don’t mean the somber subculture of guitar bands with their angst-filled lyrics and low strong riffs that came out of Seattle in the mid 80’s.  I’m talking about the Market Theatre Gum Wall!   

Not for the squeamish nor faint of heart this Jackson Pollack inspired wall is just south of ‘Rachel’, the markets big brass pig, and under Pike Place on Post Alley.  No doubt this is one the strepiest and germiest tourist attractions around, with some areas of this 15 feet high and 50 feet wide wall being several centimeters thick with chewy, but when in Rome……..

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I don’t think you will ever find this kind of tourist attraction in Singapore……..

Seattleites are also renown for their caffeine addiction with Starbucks having been founded here.  I do however, prefer to fondly remember Seattle for the bands it produced such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana and for the guitar legend Jimi Hendrix rather than Starbucks.  Sorry guys, its not me, its you with the coffee!   I just prefer the little independent hardcore coffee-nerd places and trust me, there are plenty of great ones around Seattle and its neighborhood communities.

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Anyway, the Starbucks at Pike Place isn’t the first of this chain but it is the oldest store.  And how’s this, I noticed on the stores logo’s that the curvaceous and lovely mermaid originally had her boobs on show – I really am all about the detail – however she appears to have undergone a little ‘make-under’ over the years.

The good folk of Seattle also seem to have quite a sense of humor.  Like the naming of their South Lake Union Trolley  – The SLUT.   It is very much an electric tram, part of the streetcar line, which runs from the South Lake Union neighborhood to Downtown Seattle.  This line may not take you anywhere really special but the souvenir t-shirts are quite fun.  Sense of amusement required though 🙂

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As I write this blog post, I am combing back through my notebooks looking at my thoughts jotted down while in Seattle and on this return trip home.  Most of it is grief stricken and uncertain.  I guess I was quite a newcomer to such deceit and no doubt I found it difficult to navigate those achingly treacherous days.  I may have written words down but really, there were no words……….

Perhaps though, and this is largely due to the fact much has revealed itself and in that slow unfurling, I now see this entire situation in a far better light.  I guess there is nothing more liberating than grabbing something by the balls, shaking it up, turning it on its head and seeing just what actually falls out.

What is certain though is from grief eventually comes joy of opportunity.  They say revenge is sweet but I believe a little happiness, a little more kindness and even a little more compassion to be far sweeter.  I know too where I have come from, where I have been and just like ‘The Slut’ I certainly know where I am headed but I still  ‘don’t know what to do with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs.  They’re callin again’……..

Part II of Seattle coming soon……..xx

Footnote:  Lyrics (in bold italics) from the Frasier theme tune, ‘Tossed salad and scrambled eggs’ by Bruce Miller.

 

John Wayne, my big girl pants and committing little murders…….

It is the start of a brand new year and with that comes the opportunity to welcome in hope, possibility and change.  At the beginning of each new year I tweak my blog site just ever so slightly and although I view my stories as a mere drop in the ocean, I will continue with them.   I am so very grateful for this open door with which to write.  May it never close…….

There is a lovely French saying, we are straying from the sheep,  which is what I have done in this post.  We are retracing the journey homeward from the USA and my previous blogs have been reflecting this time and although our next stop was intended to be Seattle Washington, necessity it seems, has petitioned this post be written instead.

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It is summer here in Australia.  The sun is shining hard, the flies are slow and the baking almost scorch drive heat has everyone seeking shade, iced water and the comfort of air-conditioning.  I had thought the writing of this post was being made more difficult by the heat but I know the soaring temperatures are not to blame.  It is the subject itself which is the problem as it draws one back to the juncture of those who seem starved of any moral code.

Occasionally I find when at a cross-roads with a profoundly troubling issue I sometimes ask myself this:  ‘what would John Wayne do!’    You may think this odd but those who know me will know of my love and deep respect (a shy code for obsession) with John Wayne and his movies so on the odd occasion, I seek the big man out.

And what would the Duke do if faced with a conundrum like this!  Well he would rear back and shout ‘fill your hands you son of a bitch’ then with reins clenched between his teeth and a Colt revolver in one hand and his signature Winchester rifle in the other, he would gallop down the oppressors on a magnificent chestnut quarter horse guns blazing for the fight of his life.

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I have probably seen True Grit one hundred times and I will no doubt see it one hundred more…..

I have no horse nor a Colt or rifle but when fighting for something I deeply believe in, and especially when I know a sense of justice has been lost, I will always and very faithfully do this.  I pull on my big girl pants and with dignity and quiet respect I go in and I fight.  When I commit to take something on I do not take it lightly.  I take it on with all my heart, I get my facts straight and I do it.

I am also very mindful when passionately fighting for a cause that I do it with civility and with my moral compass pointed in the right direction.  I will never be deliberately unkind, I do not follow and I have no need to recruit.  I will not purposefully destroy another or their reputation and nor do I gossip, spread gossip or defame.  I never raise a hateful voice but I do however, most certainly raise my game!

This is the truth of my character and these attributes have very often been commended by many.   Very sadly however, this cannot be said of all which brings me to the point of this post as I am forever struck by how some will start an idea of you through gossip, and this seems especially true when you are not in a position to defend.   I very strongly believe that all battles undertaken should be honorable and just but it seems some people are often afforded the upper-hand in a situation and unfairly so.  With the trump card of opportunity and bereft of the morality handbook, they spread poison and doubt around which seeps itself through others like a cruel and pitiless migraine.  Having been force fed this endless diet of falsehoods, others will then allow this idea of you to fester even though it is not the truth of who you and your family are and nor is it the truth of a situation!

And I can assure you this.  There is little worse than being robbed your defence and your voice especially when lost to a thousand miles of sea.  Initially, this very destructive smear campaign gained momentum as soon as we crossed the Georgia state line but it became far more ruinous, and dangerously so, once we left American soil and it has been allowed to continue!  These attacks have been the intent of pure malice and although the lies and the very hateful words have had no wings, they have still managed journeys of many long miles.

I am committed to the principle that we are all entitled to our own opinions and our own voice and I will always fight for that belief.  What we are not allowed to do however, is use that voice to make up vile hate speeches then purposefully spread those offensive stories around to deliberately undermine and destroy.  Gossip is negative and it is very, very nasty and it serves absolutely no purpose other than to support the unkindness’s of those lacking self-worth.

The insensitive and venomous attacks upon us and our reputations have been unrelenting and they have bought about times where it has been near impossible to keep going given the gravity of what has and continues to be said.  The countless secular injustices of what happened were certainly afforded a very quick burial however these terrible slurs and the disparaging insults cast continue with devastating impact.  Such is the gift of perspective, you do eventually come to understand this is not about you or your family at all…….and it never was!   What it is however, is a sad and very deep reflection of the insecurities of those who have initiated this and who are purposefully continuing with it.

The American playwright and cartoonist Jules Feiffer refers to these sorts of attacks as ‘committing little murders’ and ‘nothing more than an assassination attempt by a coward’.   Words hold great power to uplift and they can also discourage but gossiping and boastful smear campaigning does not make one powerful and nor does it anoint some in status or pious elitism.   Believing you have gained some prestigious importance is just the bullshit you are telling yourself as the word prestigious is actually derived from the Latin praestigiosis which means ‘cunning’,  ‘deception’ and ‘conjurors trick’ which is precisely what gossip of this kind, as with any, is intended to do.

To be on the receiving end of all this has been torturous as it is a cruel and hateful way to attack but it is also a very sly and manipulative way for the weak and those with little credibility to garner support from others.  No doubt this is why it still continues almost 19 months on but is this what we do to people now!  Is this how we allow ourselves to behave simply because our immense hostility toward someone is so great that we will do and say anything to destroy them!

I do appreciate these terrible times as being symbolic, archetypal if you like of a chapter where nothing more than resentment and jealousy laid many of the foundations for much of what happened.  I have spent a great deal of time gently pulling at tiny clusters of threads and these unraveling strands have revealed much.  Also during this time, I have had many moments in which to ponder the emotion of hate and primarily of the resentment which continues to be directed toward us as I just cannot fathom this emotion.  Hate is very ugly and it does not sit easily with me.  I am very grateful it is not an emotion I feel toward others which is no doubt why the gravity of the sustained animosity toward us continues to shock me.  I do recognise however that the resentment of us and primarily what has transpired has all come from a place where some are driven only by their great insecurities, envy, spite and the disappointment they hold in themselves and their lives.  They gossip and spread hurt and damage simply because they do not feel good about themselves and hateful gossipers will always attack those whom they envy.   If only people could dismantle those terrible gods of jealousy and loathing which they so desperately cling to……….

It has been difficult not to hold a grudge as I am, by my own admission, an unmovable rock of stubbornness at times.  I am not sure, as much as I have tried, that forgiveness is the simple answer though because the act of clemency must be honorable and it must be deeply heartfelt.  I understand too that forgiveness is the only grace by which to move forward with just as I acknowledge that to forgive them is not forgiving the acts of vengeance and great harm but it will be the kindest way in which to clean these very deepest of wounds.

Committing to forgiveness is far more difficult though because you can only forgive when you are ready to do so and when your great sorrow and despair has all but dissipated.  Perhaps one day their private guilt will manifest into the grief that surely awaits those who perversely love nothing more than to purposefully cause trouble for others.  In saying that though, I do wish for them to find a composed dignity which will allow them to cease behaving in such brutally cruel ways for the life you lead does not always have to be the only life you live.

And holy cats.  Although I absolutely abhor violence on any level please don’t ever think I did not want to punch this pair in their big fat old vaginas because I DID!   Very thankfully, my self respect and the slow movement of time has somewhat restored my faith in human nature again.  As much as it all so aggressively very nearly unbuttoned everything I believe in, I will not let these unkind acts drive my heart.  I will always let a flood of kindness and light pour in no matter how much someone sets their course to annihilate me and my little part of the world.  I have learned to absorb these graceless attacks and I have found a meaning and good in all that has transpired since so for that, I will graciously thank them.

I appreciate too that those inflicting this wrath of hatred are not strong.   Devoid of moral boundaries they cannot and do not champion women’s rights and nor do they support or defend women’s issues and causes.   They do not reflect the ideals of strong women for strong women encourage, they have empathy and they are positive, confident and inspiring individuals.  Strong women have their own voices and therefore do not need to parrot, they do not scheme nor coerce wedges between others and they do not perceive other women as competition.  Strong women also have no need to rally followers through untruths, they do not boast and nor do they bully.  They do not shame with hateful insults and they do not measure their worth by how unkind they can be to others.

And you won’t find the truly strong women curled up fetal position in the corner sucking their thumb while constantly criticising  what anyone else would be immensely  grateful for as they are far too compelled in getting back up on their feet.  No matter how low someone drives them down, all while putting a heel in just for good measure, those women still get back up and they face the world.  Their courage and dignity will not allow them to give up because they are the ones who fight with their lives for what they believe in and they do it with absolute conviction every single time.   Strong women can always confidently go it alone when others are left to forlornly suckle on the saggy old dried up tit of resentment and they keep up the fight even when all seems impossibly lost.

I guess what I am saying in this post is simply this.  Please do not be taken in by gossip, by these hateful stories and by those who keep spreading them.  Do not believe all that you are being told either because gossipers always rely solely on cowardice and the desperate carelessness of their stories.  Do not feed the ugly monster of sly rumormongering by listening or by partaking in it because gossip and hateful stories will only die when reaching the ear of a person wise enough not to listen!

These attacks have been like a raging infection in that they are difficult to contain and they continue to spread.  The most sorrowful part of all for me however, has been the absolute joy and delight they have derived from this determined and purposeful act to destroy another!

Everyone, no matter who they are, has the right to be respected and be treated with civility and no one will ever truly understand the impact of something until it happens to them.  When you do not suffer it you cannot acknowledge how it feels so just take a moment to think how you would feel if placed in our position.   Reflect on how very one-sided this has been, on who has been constantly spreading this hateful gossip and also remember what unkindness they have said to you about other people as this, by their own boastful admissions, ain’t their first rodeo baby!

As much as many have urged us to come out, speak out and attack back against what has been said we will not.  As deeply distressing and insensitive as these attacks have been we do not need to defend as the truth of the matter will vindicate itself and refuge is sought in the knowledge of this.  We also do not have egos nor actions to protect therefore we have not, did not and will not disparage or defame.  Vilely attacking others does not show strength or power but it does shine a very big spotlight to the fact some have lost all class, credibility and self-worth.

In the end though, the harsher reality is very simply this – those who are maliciously gossiping to you have also gossiped about you.   Do not believe for a moment, regardless who you are or how much you have suddenly gained their obsequious attention, that you have never been on the receiving end of their very cruel tongues.  And believe me, my very wise ear heard it all!

So what would John Wayne have done.  Well, I’d like to think he would have sat back in his saddle in that laconic way he had about his handsome self and said ‘baby sister, I was born game and I intend to go out that way’……… (Marshal Reuben J. ‘Rooster’ Cogburn, True Grit).

Well me too Duke because at any give moment we all have the power to say ‘this is not how my story ends’.  Stories are those deeper reaches of what it means to be human and everyone has a story be it of hope, courage, love, new beginnings, pain or loss.  Some stories you read, some are kept deeply to the heart and some ‘stories’ are unkindly spread but no one ever has the right to tell your story but you!

And this is not how my story ends.  I will always fight for what I believe in even if it means I will be left to stand alone.  When other voices remain silent through fear of being shunned and ostracised, through fear of them believing they will be next in line for the brunt of cruel attacks or simply because they think someone else will speak up they are allowing bullying, injustice and inhumanity to thrive but my voice will always remain strong.   I may not win every battle but at least I have had the courage to stand up for what I believe in and in the end, that’s all that truly matters.

Be brave, be inspiring, be compassionate and be kind always and next stop, the lovely city on Puget Sound…..xx

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Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway……..John Wayne