Category: Travel

Adventures and Misadventures.

The Kinetic Sculpture Parade

I didn’t travel to Port Townsend this weekend for a parade, in fact, I don’t like parades. I went to PT (Port Townsend for people living on the Olympic Peninsula) for a slice of pizza at Waterfront Pizza. Traveling 20 miles for a slice of pizza might seem a bit odd, but good pizza is not easily found in these parts, and there is always something to be seen in PT on the weekend: a super farmer’s market, movies at the Rose Theater, used books at William James, The Writer’s Workshop, and coffee in the Underground. So when my wife and I set out for PT we didn’t have a plan in mind other than grabbing a couple slices and wandering around the downtown. The drive to PT is beautiful, if you live in another part of the world, stay there. You can come to visit, but let’s keep my part of the world the way it is. The striking blue harbors, the colorful deciduous trees, and the evergreen covered mountainsides are just a few of the visual highlights of a trip to PT.

When we arrived in PT I knew something weird was going on, or something typically PT, I saw a man pedaling a canoe down the road. That’s right pedaling, not paddling.

A kinetic sculpture is a human-powered machine that can move on both land and water. I don’t know who invented the parade or if there are more kinetic sculpture parades in the world, all I know is that there is one in PT and I saw it this weekend.

My vantage point looking south on Water Street.

Not a beauty, but it worked.

There were about 10 people in this one.

I was a little worried about this little kid. That sculpture does not look like a floater.

Road Warrior fans will remember this one: Humongous.

The fluffy animals attached to the front were not injured in the process of taking these pictures.

The crew did not go bare buns, but it was warm enough if they had decided to let it all hang out.

The canoe with wheels. The US Navy might want to consider this mode of transportation for the Seals.

The first sign of the apocalypse: The aporkalypse breaks down during the parade.

Like a car show, but with old hippies.

The crowd waits for the sculptures to dance in the water. We decided this was the perfect time to get our slice of pizza. We did hear sirens later, so hopefully no one was hurt. The pizza was good.

The farmers market in the Uptown area of PT.

Two slices of pizza and a pie? Yep, blackberry and it was delicious. I did have to park at least two blocks away, so I got my exercise for the day done also.

PT on a Fall weekend is a pretty good place to visit and the Olympic Peninsula is a great place to live, but only move here if you fit in with the PT town motto: We’re all here, because we’re not all here.

Who’s Too Old For a Rap Concert: Part 2

The first act of the night was Brothers From Another and here is where I admit my ignorance: I don’t really know when the group started playing. The DJ was onstage playing records and trying to get the crowd to “put their hands in the air.” He would prance around for a little bit and then grab the mic and give some instructions like he was an aerobics instructor in a bad outfit. I could not get past his hat. It was a blue camouflage canvas hat shaped like the one Gilligan wore on his island. It is the type of hat that I cannot take seriously. Maybe if you live in a retirement home in Arizona you can wear a hat like that, but if you are between the ages of 8-65 you should not wear a hat like this unless it is a joke. Anyway, Gilligan danced around for about two songs and just as I was about to decide he was Brothers From Another (which would be a great name for a solo act) two other guys jumped onstage and started rapping.

How old did I feel at this point? Pretty old. The two kids rapping were probably born last week and everyone else in the crowd was younger than them. They did their best to rhyme  and put on a show, but I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to poetry. I’d take Keats over Vanilla Ice any day. I am certain that the finer points in meter, scansion, and slant rhyme would be lost on the Brothers, but I will admit I was entertained. At one point one of the brothers had a cousin come onstage to rap a charming tune, “You ain’t gonna drink my drank for free,” or something like that. Now, whether this cousin was in fact a biological cousin or not could not be determined, but he did bring the median age of people on stage into double digits.

Brothers? On the left: short brother, on the right: tall brother, in the back: Gilligan. Not the best picture in the world, but I’ll let my words paint the picture.

The Brothers finished their set and I thought they did just fine for an opening act. One of the sad things about being an opening act in a smaller club is that when your part of the show is over there is no place to go. So for the rest of the night I saw Gilligan, short brother, and tall brother wandering around like the Israelites looking for the promised land.

Between acts I watched the man with the worst job in the world: the security guy in charge of keeping the alcohol upstairs and the minors downstairs. He had to watch a door, watch the stairs, and check every person passing by for ID. His job only got harder as the night went on. What’s worse than a self-centered 22 year-old girl in a mini-skirt? How about a self-centered 22 year-old girl in a mini-skirt who has had three umbrella drinks.

The second act was set up and ready to roll by about 10PM. These days 10PM is when I set my book down on my bedside table and go nighty-night, but for some reason I wasn’t really tired yet. Maybe it was the espresso, maybe it was because my brain was being concussed by sound waves. Act number two is still a mystery to me. There was one guy named Prometheus (I hope this is his real name and not a stage name), one guy whose name is still unknown, and then there was DJ InfraRed. The name of the group? I don’t know. After the concert my daughter tried to explain the situation to me, but it was like listening to my mom explain how I was related to some person that lives in Florida.

One of the rappers is from the group Blue Scholars and the other two guys were from other groups, so it was either a rap super group or three guys doing rap karaoke.

Rap Super Group?

These guys were good. Now I don’t know what the hell they were saying, but they had great energy, got the crowd going, and put on a show worthy of my attention post 10PM. There was one moment that confused me. Prometheus said he was going to be taking it on the road to Bremerton. Now if you are in Seattle why would you aspire to go to Bremerton? For those of you outside the Northwest I will try to make a comparison. Let’s say you are in New York City doing a rap concert and then for some reason you say, “I’m going be taking this on the road to Rochester.” Maybe I missed something, but heading to Bremerton isn’t really a move in the right direction career-wise, unless you want to get a job in the ship yard. I imagine those jobs pay well and have better hours than rap star.

The rap trio then asked for requests from the crowd, I almost always request Blue Velvet or Just a Gigolo when called upon in situations like this, but I figured DJ InfraRed probably left those albums at home, so I left it up the youngsters in the crowd to shout out requests. One young lady standing near me started yelling, “Rasheeda Jones, Rasheeda Jones…” like she was Biz Markie‘s sister. She kind of looked like Biz Markie too, except in a skirt. Anyway, the group then busted into Rasheeda Jones. Biz Markie’s sister took full credit for the song and would not shut up about it. Act two came to an end and the +21 year olds headed upstairs to get oiled up for the final act of the night: The Physics.

Between sets one of the security guys went to stand in front of the big fan near me and I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but the dude was not bathed in sweet-smelling nectar. No he smelled like hot dogs. If I smelled like hot dogs I would not stand in front of a fan, unless I was trying to entice people into a life of cannibalism. There are two ways to go when smelling like a hot dog: 1. put on a lot of Old Spice, 2. embrace your inner hot dog and rub a cut onion all over your body.

The final act took the stage around 11:15, and when I say took the stage I mean they filled the stage. The stage was not huge but I estimate there are 12,000 people in The Physics. Okay, maybe not 12,000. The number of Physics falls somewhere between MC Hammer‘s stage act and Public Enemy’s (not counting people dressed in military outfits.) To be more exact: two vocalists, two rappers, one DJ, one guy playing a keyboard, and one guy playing a guitar.

The Physics (and a few members of the crowd).

The Physics were good. I have even listened to their album Tomorrow People and liked it. The show was going along just fine until they had members of the audience join them onstage to dance around. I kept wondering if the stage could hold all that funkiness. It did, but at the end of the song, when everyone was supposed to head back to the floor, one girl stood on the stage texting while everyone else followed the rules. She just kept texting away as the guitarist tried his best to shoo her away, but she would have none of it. She then interrupted the lead rapper to take a picture. I am not a violent person, but I found myself wishing someone would attack this self-centered moron or at least take her phone and throw it into the crowd where it could be stomped on repeatedly.

The show did go on but we left before it was over. We had to catch the 12:45 ferry back home, so we did not see the end of the show. My children reported a Macklemore sighting, so I assume he hopped on stage with The Physics at some point in the evening, but I cannot report this as fact. I can say that Capitol Hill is still busy at 12:30 in the morning and I did enjoy my first rap concert.

Heading back home on the ferry. The Emerald City is just as lovely at night.

Who’s Too Old For a Rap Concert? Part 1

In my family we like to say, “The more you like music, the more music you like.” I love music and have encouraged my children to love music also. Unfortunately this has caused my children to form their own musical tastes and dabble in rap music. We all know that rap music is the gateway music to anarchy, death, destruction, and the end of mankind. I will admit that I dabbled in rap music when I was younger. I listened to the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, and De La Soul; but I didn’t get hooked, I knew better than to try the harder stuff like NWA and Tu Pac. I never wore a hat sideways, bought gold chains, or owned a pair of pants that sagged enough to show off my ass. While friends of mine were learning the lyrics of Cop Killer I took a left turn and immersed myself in reggae. (No, I did not grow dreads, or chant down Babylon.)

My children do like the rap music and apparently there is a vibrant and growing rap scene in Seattle, at least this is what I have been told. So when my children expressed an interest in attending The Physics album drop I was concerned. I am one of those older folks who associate most rap music with misogynistic lyrics and anti-authoritarian attitudes, so I told my children I would chaperone them if they paid for everything: my ticket, the ferry ride, the meals, and all the coffee I could drink. They agreed and that is how I ended up at my first rap concert last Saturday.

Mount Rainier from the Bainbridge ferry deck.

It was a beautiful day to visit Seattle. The sky was clear and from the ferry the entire Cascade Range was visible from Mount Baker to Mount Rainier. There is no other major city in the US that is as lovely as Seattle on a clear day. This is not an opinion; it is fact.

We arrived in Seattle and headed for Neumos (the club where the concert was to be held) on Capitol Hill. We ate lunch, walked around and looked in the shops, and spent about two hours in Elliot Bay Bookstore. By the time 8PM rolled around I was already tired. I rallied by drinking a couple espresso shots and then went to stand in line for the concert. Most of the people in line were about 12 years old (anyone under 25 looks 12 to me these days.)

Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle. Once located downtown in the Pioneer Square area, is now on Capitol Hill.

We entered the venue and I set up camp as far away from the stage as possible, my kids went the opposite direction. Neumos has an upstairs for over 21 drunks and a lower section for the kids. It did not take me long to feel old since I was downstairs with the kiddies, but I did my best to put my cool on and stood next to a large fan hoping it would blow the noise away once the concert started.

The kids pretending not to know the old dude in the back.

The first 30 minutes of the show were taken up with various strange looking dudes walking on stage and fiddling with turntables and cables. Most of the AV crew looked like they had just escaped from the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Eventually they connected all the right cords and the speakers began pumping out chest crushing bass thumping sounds that probably killed whales in the Puget Sound.

(Tomorrow: I learn to put my hands in the air.)

A Few Days in San Francisco

What can I write about San Francisco that hasn’t already been written? Not much, but I will not let that stop me.

The Golden Gate in all its splendor.

The World’s Top Seven Cities (that I have visited):

1. Paris   2. London   3. Copenhagen   4. Berlin   5. San Francisco   6. Chicago   7. Fresno (Number 7 is obviously a joke. Fresno would appear on lists like: Possible Armpits of California, Best Places to Melt Candles, Flattest Cities in the World, Don’t Eat Sushi in these Cities, Most Dangerous Downtowns in America, and Cities That Look Like They Have Already Survived the Zombie Apocalypse.)

San Francisco is a city that has whatever a traveler is looking for? Landmarks (check), Distinctive Neighborhoods (check), Fantastic Food (check), Museums (check), Public Transportation (half-check), History (check), Weird Stuff (check plus).

The past two summers my family has exchanged homes with a couple in Point Richmond (near Berkeley) and spent time in the city by the bay. If you are new to San Francisco here are a few pointers.

Don’t call San Francisco Frisco. Don’t even do it as a joke. Frisco is the name of a dog and if you named your dog Frisco, you are a bad person.

Do the typical touristy things. Should you ride a cable car? Yes, and stand on the outside. Allow the ugly tourist in you to live. If you have to push some Italian tourist out of the way to stand on the running board, do it. Do you think those Italians are going to be nice to you when you visit Rome? Hell no! They are going to cut in line, they are going to walk five abreast blocking the street. Take your big American elbows and cut a space for yourself on the cable car and don’t apologize.

Next, go to Alcatraz. Yeah, it is a big tourist trap, but it is also a pretty cool tourist trap. (The one exception to visiting Alcatraz would be for those of you that have actually been locked up before. You might not want to “visit” a prison on vacation and I think it is okay to take a pass on this one.)

Go to Chinatown and gawk. My kids hate Chinatown. It is dirty. It is loud. It is crowded. Old people using walkers block the streets. Strange things hang in store windows. It really is like traveling to a new country. The nice thing is that you don’t need a passport to visit this weird mini-country.

If you have kids go to the Science Museums. The Exploratorium (downtownish) is really fun. It is a museum of hands on experiments built by nerds who are trying to make science cool. They accomplished the task.

The California Academy of Sciences Museum (Golden Gate Park) is also super cool. There is a planetarium, aquarium, and a tropical forest all in one stop. The DeYoungMuseum right next door has a pretty good collection of art. The building itself is worth looking at and don’t forget to go up in the tower for great views of the park and sections of the city.

Alley next to City Lights Bookstore.

North Beach has one of the most important literary sites in America: City Lights Books. The Beats hung out here. The bookstore published Alan Ginsberg’s poem Howl and was charged with obscenity by the US government. The trial set a precedent for free speech and the First Amendment. The bookstore is small, dense, creaky, and old like all good bookstores. Go in, buy a book, a t-shirt, a bumper-sticker and keep this bookstore alive. North Beach also has some good food, but if you don’t buy a book you are a bad person who probably owns a dog named Frisco.

Fighting over poetry is my kind of fight.

The two most over-rated locations in San Francisco are the wharf and Haight-Ashbery. If you have never been to these places I suppose there might be something to see, but today the wharf is too crowded and too annoying for me, and Haight-Ashbery makes me sad. The plight of the mentally ill is on display where hippies once hoped for a world of peace and love. I’m sure some of the homeless are still attracted to the idea of living on these streets, but whatever they came looking for doesn’t exist any longer (if it ever did.) If you are still looking for the summer of love and the center of the hippie universe I would suggest taking BARTacross the bay to Berkeley.

Center of the Universe, 1968.

The best place to see the Golden Gate Bridge is? I don’t know. I have traveled to San Francisco many times but I don’t know if I have ever seen the entire bridge on a clear day. I went to the Marin Headlands this year on what I thought was a clear day. It was not clear at the headlands.

The fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco.

San Francisco has all of this and much more. I did not mention the Castro district, little Japan, Palo Alto… just go, and wear some flowers in your hair.

Quick Trip to Seattle

I had to make a quick morning trip to Seattle this weekend and took some pictures. I took most of the pictures from the Bainbridge Island ferry.

The ferry Tacoma and a little bit of my finger.

Downtown Seattle through the mouth of the ferry.

The Olympic Peninsula/home. The Olympic Mountain Range can be seen if you look closely.

Pioneer area before the masses awake.

Quest Field or is it something else these days? Whatever the name, it is where the Sounders (soccer) and Seahawks (American football) play.

Looking from SODO (South of Downtown) toward downtown.

The train station and downtown cluster of towers.

The waterfront looking north. The Space Needle is hiding behind one of the buildings.

The Space Needle through the ferris wheel thing they are building. The wheel is about half the size of the London Eye. Notice the orange top on the Space Needle. The Needle was originally orange and has been returned to its original color to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

One more for the road.

Heading back home.

Portland: Keeping it Weird

So what does one do after spending four hours in a bookstore? Well, one might eat a little food. Portland offers too many food options, so I keep it simple and go to the same place every time, Kornblatt’s on 23rd. Kornblatt’s is a New York style deli. The deli is not very big but there is seating for about 200 people all wedged into the space of disco dance floor.

The Kornblatt’s menu.

I ordered the “seasonal” sandwich the Brooklyn Bomber (fried latka, grilled onions, melted cheese, beef brisket, on a sweet bun). I don’t what season it needs to be to order a sandwich that has nothing seasonal in it, but you will notice that there is not a picture of this sandwich because as soon as the plate hit the table my mind went blank and I inhaled the sandwich in under ten minutes. This was not a little sandwich either, but when it was gone I felt a pang of regret. It might have been the 12,000 calories I just consumed bumping into my stomach walls, but more likely it was the realization that the sandwich was gone.

We then hiked back to the car which was parked about five blocks away, 23rd Avenue is a busy little area on the west side of downtown. It is also another example of how Portland gets it right. The entire area is surrounded by old houses that have been fixed up, painted and now create a lovely little village feel.

After lunch it is always time for a coffee and some writing. The best place for this activity is Hawthorne. On the way to Hawthorne we always stop at Music Millennium where I remember what record stores once were. The loss of music stores makes me feel like singing a few verses of American Pie (not that stupid movie, but the song my Don McLean.)

The Bagdad Theater, the only part of Bagdad that we didn’t bomb. One of the cornerstone buildings in the Hawthorne area.

The coffee and writing ritual has developed over the years, but my friend and I exchange little words and ideas and then write something. Usually it is poetry, but this year we went with ye ole prose.

The sour fruits of our labor.

Hawthorne is a great little neighborhood also. It is one of the funky areas of Portland where people my age feel older. There is also a smaller Powell’s books. Yes, I did go into the bookstore and look at more books, but for once I didn’t buy anything. I also saw a women who embodied the Hawthorne neighborhood: about six feet tall, blonde spiked hair, yellow cowboy boots, denim knee-length shorts, tight yellow tank-top, completely covered with tattoos from mid neck to top of the yellow boots.

After our writing it is time for a walk in Laurelhurst Park. This is a great little neighborhood park where there is a off-leash dog area and plenty of space for people to play frisbee or just absorb the sunshine.

Two laps around Laurelhurst Park.

Why do I end up at the Rhinelander to eat dinner? I don’t really know. Maybe it is the cheese fondue, maybe it is trying to recapture something I loved about Germany, maybe it is just what we normally do. It doesn’t really matter, because the final stop before heading back is always the Rhinelander.

Round two of eating too much.

Did I eat too much? Yes, and I had desert also.

If I ate this way every day would I die of a heart attack? Yes.

Are there 20 other great neighborhoods in Portland that I missed? Yes.

Is the downtown one of the coolest, greatest examples of urban renewal in America? Yes.

Is the waterfront awesome? Yes.

Could I spend a week there and just wander from micro-pub to micro-pub? Yes.

Will I be returning to Portland next year at the end of May? Yes.

The Annual Pilgrimage to Portland

Portland, Oregon is about a five-hour drive from my home. Now if you live in the eastern portion of the United States or in Europe, a five-hour drive will take you through about five major metropolitan areas, here in God’s country (the Pacific Northwest, land of milk, honey and coffee) a five-hour drive will take you to the tattoo/piercing capital of the universe: Portland.

Each year, for the past eight years, I have made this psuedo-religious trip to the Rose City with a friend. Our primary goal is to visit the greatest bookstore on the planet, Powell’s books, but the trip has evolved from a frenetic attempt to squeeze as much Portland into a day into a ritual of friendship. The first few times we visited Portland we played nine holes of golf and worked Powell’s into the equation, these days it is primarily Powell’s.

Valhalla for readers.

What makes Powell’s so great? The same thing that makes everything else great in the United States of America…hugeness. Powell’s is a monstrosity of a bookstore, which by American standards makes it great, but it is also an independent bookstore in an age when local bookstores are dying. Powell’s has managed to prosper in this age of digital content and books delivered to your doorstep. The main reason (I don’t really know but because this is my blog I can say what I want) Powell’s is successful is because it is located in Portland, land of the weird. The citizens of Portland have bumper-stickers and T-shirts with the unofficial city motto: Keep Portland Weird. Could there be a better motto in the world? Okay, Berlin’s “Poor but Sexy” is a close second.

The people of Portland might step into a Barnes and Noble bookstore, but they would feel like they were cheating on their significant other. The citizens of Portland might look like a bunch of dirty hippies, but they take their social responsibility seriously.

Six floors and a city block of this…oh thank you, Mr. Powell.

The plan goes like this: Arrive at Powell’s, park, start upstairs in the Drama section and work our way down through the bookstore until exhausted. Usual time spent in Powell’s: 3.5 – 4 hours.

The beginning of my stack of books. Yes, I am wearing socks and sandals, get over it. Nobody needs to see my toes.

After we have reached the end of the bookshelves, we reconvene in the coffee lounge and decide what to buy and what to return. This year I managed to keep all of my bounty: Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Calvino, The Sun Also Rises Companion by Reynolds, The Crack-Up by Fitzgerald, The 1-Hour Guidebook to Hamlet, Those Guys Have All the Fun by Miller and Shales, and Picasso’s: Guernica by Chipp.

I could not find two of the books I was hoping to bring home. The lady dressed like Tinkerbell at the information desk said they had the books at the Beaverton location, but I could not fit that into my busy schedule. It will give me a reason to search out the Beaverton location on my next drive through Portland.

Tomorrow’s post: Lunch, a stroll through smellyville, and dinner.

My Favorite Places: The British Museum

Someone in London deserves a medal. I am not speaking of the upcoming Olympics or of some Londoner’s brave behavior during WW II, I am talking about a cultural decision to make many of the museums in London free. The first time I traveled to London I did not know this and I purchased a “London Pass” which got me into a few of the attractions that had an entrance fee (Tower of London, Queen’s Gallery), but when I tried to use my pass at most of the museums (National Gallery, Tate Modern, Natural History, Victoria and Albert) I discovered that these cultural landmarks were there for everyone to enjoy without having to spend a quid, a pound, or a guinea.

These museums are not free because they suck, the are free because someone decided that you shouldn’t have to pay to see some of the greatest stuff in the world. My favorite museum in London is The British Museum.

There is something about the light in the Great Court.

There are people who are probably saying as they read this, “Well, the reason the museum is free is because all the stuff inside is stolen from somewhere else.” Sure, Elgin is not going to get a warm reception in Greece any time soon, but I don’t think he cares since he has been dead for many years, but most of England doesn’t care either. It is that British attitude that is both admirable and maddening. For all their cultural awareness and preservation of the arts, there is an underlying, unspoken message for people who don’t like it, “We don’t care what you think.”

The greatness of the museum collection is unquestioned. The Elgin Marbles are impressive, the Rosetta Stone sits behind a big glass case and is always surrounded by people, the Egyptian rooms are impressive, but what I like best about the museum is that two great poems were inspired by visits here.

Rumor has it that John Keats wrote Ode on a Grecian Urn after visiting the museum, and Lord Byron penned Ozymandias after seeing a broken statue in one of the halls.

I am Ozymandias.

There are probably other reasons to like the museum, but each time I have visited I find myself circulating in the same general area: enter the Great Court, take a left and wander for a couple hours.

The Rosetta Stone before the computer program.

Balawat Gates.

Now the British Museum is not everyone’s favorite place, in fact some people don’t like anything about the museum other than the food.

So, if you are a lover of chocolate frogs or reminders of the greatness of man’s ancient cultures the British Museum is a must see, and it is one of my favorite places.

My Favorite Places: The Art Institute, Chicago

Chicago maintains its reputation as a tough, broad-shouldered city by generously consuming unhealthy foods and living near the farmlands of America where, at least once a year, a farmer manages to get his arms pulled off by some machine.The armless farmer then walks five miles to the nearest farmhouse to call for a doctor. He is airlifted to Chicago where his arms are reattached and he is on the evening news for a week saying things like, “I thought about trying to take the cell phone out of my pocket to call, but I didn’t want to get blood on my pants. I wish I had gone with the iPhone 4s, then I could have asked Siri how to cauterised a wound.” It is this stoic, midwestern attitude that dominates the city of Chicago, at least as far as I remember.  I lived there many, many years ago.

I returned to Chicago a couple years ago to see one thing: George Seurat‘s, Le Grand Jatte. No, Le Grand Jatte is not a restaurant that serves bratwurst covered in green relish and onions–although Le Grand Jatte would be a good name for a restaurant or picnic store–it is a painting housed in one of my favorite museums: The Art Institute.

The Art Institute has one of the greatest collections in the WORLD. That’s right, the WORLD. In other words, one of the greatest museums on planet Earth resides in the city of broad shoulders, stacker of wheat, player with railroads and freight handler for the world. If you don’t believe me check this out:

Bam!

Pow!

Smack!

Judo Chop!

Blam!

Kaplooee!

I would have put another picture in this location, but Hopper‘s Nighthawks was on vacation in Boston when I visited.  Instead I will leave a large blank space here to represent my bitterness and anger after I discovered the painting was on loan and I would just have to live with it.

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I spent four hours in the museum. I wish I had set aside a full day because the four hours I had allotted myself was not enough.  I sprinted through the collection and didn’t really have a chance to savor the paintings like the true art connoisseur that I am, and I am not in great shape so four hours of walking fast wore me out.

So if you are visiting Chicago after pulling your arms off, or just on a regular vacation, you owe it to your eyeballs to go to The Art Institute, it is one of my favorite places.

Seattle and Sunshine

There is a common perception that it rains a great deal in Seattle. Does it rain in Seattle? Yes. Does it rain as much as people think it does? No, but if you were to visit Seattle for a week there is a pretty good chance you would get wet at some point.

When I travel and people ask me, “Where are you from?” I always answer, “Seattle.” It simplifies my life. I can’t tell most people I am from Washington, because everyone always assumes that I am speaking of Washington DC. If I say I live on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, I get a lot of blank looks, so I just cut the chitter-chatter and say I am from Seattle. It isn’t like I am forming life-long friendships so a little white lie isn’t going to hurt.

Last summer I was in City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and an older couple approached me for directions. I don’t know if I looked like I knew where Chinatown was but I noticed they had one of those unfortunate accents that can only be described as a drawl. I asked where they were from and they said, “Tennessee,” rather more proudly than anyone should. (Okay, I have never been to the American South and I know people don’t run around eating possum every night, but I need to keep my preconceived notions about the groin of the Bible Belt.) The folks from Tennessee folks asked where I lived and when I told them Seattle, their first reaction was to comment on how much it rains there. I got a bit defensive and wanted to say, “At least our hillbillies wear shirts,” but instead I explained that it doesn’t rain that much in Seattle and that our sunshine is epic. I also told them I can go a whole year without turning on air conditioning in my house. My comments had the desired effect; living in a place that is beautiful and temperate should be envied.

Summers in the Pacific Northwest are nearly unmatched in the quality of life: Long days, mild temperatures, and sunshine.

This weekend we had a taste of the upcoming summer and no city loves its sunshine like Seattle.

Sunshine brings the pale hoards into the light and on to the city's green spaces.

A picture of tourists taking pictures of the original Starbucks.

North overlooking the Puget Sound.

Is Seattle a great city to visit? Yep. Is it going to rain when you visit? There is about a 70% chance during the winter and a 20% during the summer. If you are afraid of the rain then I suggest you go someplace like Las Vegas where you can stay inside the whole time, but if you love the outdoors and all the beauty of the ocean and mountains Seattle is best city in the world.

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