Sunday, October 4, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

I still take my camera to Denny Park, but I'm using the phone more and more.  I've gotten a lot of great shots that way.  For every shot that I take with the camera, I can take about 50 with the phone.  True, many will be bad, but the law of averages gives me many more great photos.  The above shot was taken with the camera.  It's not super-great, but you can tell it's a squirrel.  The two below are from the phone.  The top one is what happens when the fellow stands still for a second or two.  The bottom one is when there's some motion.  I'll tell you, although the focus isn't perfect, I really like that second shot.  Plus, for some reason, the phone doesn't freak squirrels out like the camera does.  I have no idea why that is because both make noise.  Anyhow, I'm becoming more pleased with the phone, so the 2017 calendar might have to be in the square format.  Unless, of course, I get a really good quick-shooting camera.  Sadly, I don't have $500 just laying around.  So the phone it is.    

New Place!

I don't know how new.  All I know is that it was here after I got back.  It's called Villa Escondida and it's in the former Frontier Room space at 1st & Blanchard.  In case you were wondering, it's a Mexican restaurant.  I am always on the lookout for an uplifting burrito experience, so I was excited to try.  First off, nothing remains of the old Frontier Room, its former dimness and dank appeal.  In recent years, it was a barbecue joint and then it closed.  But it's been completely remodeled.  It's almost totally without character.  It's just brightly lit and kind of sterile.  But if the food is awesome, who cares about the decor?  I had the wet burrito with chicken and lots of hot sauce.  It was good; more authentic than Mama's, but I was looking for a punch that it didn't have.  Maybe I'm in the extreme minority here, but their hot sauce wasn't hot enough and the burrito itself wasn't very spicy, which is what I was really hoping for.  Oh well, like I said, it was good.  I plan to go back some other time for more stuff on the menu.  They have an interesting breakfast selection and happy hour specials, too.  So we shall see...
Once again, I'm not the most observant guy in the world and I assume that this branch of El Camion on South Lake Union (on Thomas, between 9th & Westlake) has been operating for a while.  It's just a block away from the squirrel park, but I failed to notice it.  When I found out, I was pretty elated.  The Ballard El Camion (on 54th between 14th & 15th) is superb.  I eat there a lot (more like constantly) when I record.  Even though the El Camion restaurant is just ten blocks down the street, for some reason, the truck is always superior.  I have never had anything bad from there and the service is really fast.  I can't say the same about the restaurant - on both counts.  I thought that this place would uphold the high quality of the Ballard truck.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.  I got a chorizo burrito and took it home.  That's a 15-minute walk.  When I got home, it was cold.  The only thing that saved it was the sauces - they have the best sauces in the universe.  I'm especially partial to their habanero and chipotle.  They are very hot and flavorful.  So yeah, disappointed with the SLU truck.  OK, so I'll have to try them again and I will report back.  Even if they aren't that great, it's not like the Ballard truck is going anywhere.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Bad Neighbors on a Bad Block

You have to admit, 2nd Ave. between Blanchard & Lenora is not a good block.  There are only two real businesses, one of which seems to draw a lot of unsavory types.  There is also the El Rey with its sundry crazy people.  Most are OK, but a few are constantly panhandling or compulsively rummaging through every trash can they run across.  It's not the greatest block.  In fact, it's bad.

For years and years, Action Small Appliance was my downstairs neighbor.  They were great.  You never knew they were there, they were so quiet.  Well, they moved over to Bellevue and the storefront was vacant for quite a while.  Then this summer, it became a workspace called Common Area Maintenance - not a very catchy name, but it wasn't not my call.  There was a lot of renovation that went on.  I was OK with that activity, because it didn't seem to go on for too long at a stretch.  It only became slightly annoying when they added a sound system.  This wasn't just some stereo; it was a small PA that could generate a lot of volume.  Sometimes it did just that.  Being directly upstairs wasn't a treat, especially since they seemed to play fairly bland pop music along the lines of Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen.  I kind of expected artists to have a little more adventurous taste in music, but alas.  After having quite a loud event when the space was mostly remodeled, things settled down.  I figured that would be like that forever.  We would coexist with mutual respect and so forth.  That's how it was for the most part.  Well, earlier in the week they hung up these signs in the hallway:
OK, so last night started out fine.  I figured that they were going to be adults about this.  Everything was quiet and nice, but at nine, it turned into a mini-rave/dance party/disco complete with bad boots-and-pants electro.  The volume kept going up until almost everything was shaking in my apartment.  I figured things would shut down at 10, per building rules.  They did not.  The volume kept going up over the next hour and the sidewalk out front was a sea of loud conversation.  It was just awful.  There was no escaping it.  With each passing minute, I got angrier.  By 11:00, I had had enough.  I went downstairs, found the DJ and told him to shut it down or I was gonna call the cops.  I was referred to the guy who organized it.  He was clearly on drugs.  He kept calling me "sir," like I was some miffed restaurant patron and promised to shut the whole thing down.  He didn't.  I called the cops.  In fact, I called them three times over the next 45 minutes.  They never showed, though I did see no less than three police cars pass by without stopping.  The music finally shut off around midnight, but that just meant that everybody was out on the sidewalk, talking very loudly.  I finally had to shout from my window for them to go home circa 12:30.  I wasn't rude, I didn't swear; I just reminded them that people live in this building.  Whaddaya know, folks, people live in Belltown!  Ain't that a thing?  Well, I hope I can come to your houses and apartments, play loud music and shout at my friends, too!  What jolly fun!

OK, so bottom line: they're bad neighbors.  I have separate issues with the cops, namely that they didn't show, but this was a real shitty thing for these gallery folk to do to their neighbors.  I know the old trick: invite the whole building and be as loud as you want, because everybody was invited/warned.  Sorry guys, it doesn't work that way.  I'm told that they're going to have more events like this in the future.  Uh, no they're not.  They're either going to be a gallery, not a club, or they're going to leave the neighborhood.  They can make noise until 10:00, but after that, they shut it down.  From now on, at one minute after ten, I call the cops.  I don't want this to become a war, but it may come to that.  I believe they rely on grants to operate, so when it comes time for more funding, I can round up a bunch of people from this building to speak against it.  It's great to live with mutual respect with your neighbors.  The gallery mooks crossed a line last night and I'm very unhappy having them in this building.            

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

This guy is from this morning.  Even though it kind of looks like he was shaking his squirrel-fist at me, that wasn't the case.  Speaking of anger, I was at the park earlier this week, taking what amounted to some very nice pictures when some park bum started yelling at me.  Apparently, he didn't like the idea of me taking pictures.  I wasn't taking pictures of him; he just didn't like me taking pictures.  I ignored him and took some more really good shots.  Then he came over in my direction and started threatening me.  This was definitely weird.  Most of the park bums just lay around all day and don't bother anyone.  This guy was different.  He wasn't crazy, just kind of generally angry.  I told him to mind his own business, but he kept shouting at me to stop taking pictures.  Since all that shouting scared away the squirrels, I pretty much had to stop.  As I walked away, he just kept yelling.  Why on earth would anybody get so mad about something like that?  Well, it beats me.  I was back the next day and the guy wasn't there.  I'm just figuring that he was so intent on conflict that he got himself thrown in jail.  It's funny, though, all during this whole thing (a couple of minutes at most), I didn't even think once to call the cops.  I mean, some guy threatening complete strangers in a park is something that would interest law enforcement, no?  Yeah, it never even crossed my mind.  Next time, maybe.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

Here's a nice fall squirrel from today at Denny Park.  I'm making a concerted effort to get down to the squirrel's level these days and this is the result.  I've been taking lots of pictures with my phone and it's been really effective.  Here are two shots from this week:
The advantage to the phone is that you can snap pictures off like crazy at the spur of the moment.  However, as limited as my camera is, it does take some superb shots - the colors and resolution are much better than with a phone.  The only problem is - and I've mentioned this many times - you have to take about 20 pictures before getting something worthwhile and even then, your results might not be that great.  The phone photos are also a different size, so even if they're super-good, sizing them to fit onto my swell-o-riffic calendar is a challenge.  Either way, since I'm now unemployed, you can probably expect some very good pictures in the coming weeks.      


After a Saturday night in Belltown, the sidewalks are often strewn with abandoned clothes.  And yes, you get the odd shoe every so often.  But you rarely see a matched pair.  With shoes, there are always bigger questions, like, how did their former owner get home?  What was their condition if or when they got there?  Did they lose any other clothing items?  These shoes raise those questions and others.  But more importantly, ladies (and gents with very dainty feet), if these look to be your size, they're still hanging out at Tula's as of noon Sunday.  Like all heels, they look really uncomfortable.  But hey, they're free!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

Well, I didn't see a single squirrel in Turkey.  They have them - or so I'm told - but they're just not anywhere I went.  But once back here, there were squirrels aplenty at Denny Park.  Pardon the focus here.  This fellow got way too close way too fast.  I'm trying to get down to the squirrel level more often, but that means that they'll attempt to climb all over you.  Yes, even the most skittish squirrel will want to do that.  Since their claws are sharp, I try to discourage them from getting too close.  I was only partly successful.  He did jump into my lap right after I took this shot, but abruptly realized that I was a really big predator and bolted away.  I coaxed him back with a peanut and we called it even.

I've Been Away...

OK, I did a good enough job posting over on Facebook.  Why no blog posts?  Because Blogger wouldn't let me log in.  Stupid Blogger.  I might be outgrowing you.  I don't know.  All I know is that this trip was the best one yet.  There were no drunken political arguments with my relatives this time around, because Ukraine wasn't on the itinerary.  This was also the most solitary trip I've ever taken.  I rarely talked with anybody, maybe a few Brits here and there, and quite a few Turks for sure.  I wasn't excluding anybody from my sparkling presence for any reason; it's just that I felt like I was reaching for a different experience than most, as this was my eighth visit.  And I really achieved that, especially in Central Anatolia.  There's just something about the entire area that I find endlessly intriguing.  Anyhow, here are some photos.  If you want more elaborate descriptions, just go over to my FB page.
Blogger was kind enough to scramble the order up, so there's no chronology to this.  But who needs linear time?  Anyhow it was a great trip.   

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

This is my last squirrel for a month, so I might as well make it a good one.  Enjoy!

Sorry Ukraine, Maybe Next Time

I’m off to Turkey for a month tomorrow.  Usually I start out in Ukraine, visit some relatives, see a few sights and move on.  That’s not happening this time around.  I know that there are a few relatives and acquaintances from the home village of Peremilov that are Facebook friends, so maybe a little clarification is in order.  OK, it’s not that I don’t care about you; it’s just that there’s this war you’ve got going on with Russia.  Never mind this business about “separatists.” You’re fighting Russia.  Ever since I started visiting Ukraine in 1993, everybody’s been telling me that there was going to be a war like this.  I thought you guys were being delusional.  As the American, I felt it was my job to be the optimist.  I thought that talking positively about the future would make things seem less grim.  I feel a bit foolish about that now, given what’s happened over the last year and a half.  

But let’s back up a bit.  Ever since my first visit, it’s been tough to ignore that Ukraine has been poorly governed.  Elected and appointed officials methodically loot the treasury without the least thought to the people they’re supposed to be representing or serving.  The rule of law doesn’t apply and the economy is a ruin.  The thing about the corruption is that it continues even when it’s exposed.  Politicians seem to be proud to be corrupt, just as so many Ukrainians are proud alcoholics.  What’s the supreme mystery here is that the corruption is never-ending because the people expect it.  Yeah, just look at the last guy they elected as their president, Viktor Yanukovych.  Despite poisoning his opponent and committing widespread election fraud, he eventually became president of the country (after a revolution and a very disappointing term by the guy he almost killed).  Everybody knew he’d be a disaster, but they made him president anyway.  There was something of a popular rebellion against him and he was eventually kicked out of office last year.  That’s when Russia moved in and all this crazy stuff started up in earnest.  So it’s not just about Russian aggression; that’s a part of this whole mess, but basically, it’s about how Ukrainians allow crappy government to happen.  It’s about the almost unimaginable selfishness of the ruling apparatus.  It’s about how nothing works.  Back in the Soviet times, they could curse the faceless bureaucracy and the lunacy of Leninism and appreciate the stability of a system that seemingly could preserve itself forever.  They were powerless to do much about it, but at least most everybody was in the same boat.  Everyone was poor, everything was broken and there was nothing worth buying.  Fast forward to now and they’re theoretically living in a parliamentary democracy with representatives who are supposed to represent their interests, but they still act like there’s a Soviet Union.  People don’t vote and they don’t hold their government accountable until it gets so intolerable that they have to rise in rebellion.  That, folks, is no way to run a country.  I can no longer be the optimist with my relatives, nor can I sit there and listen to why they’re not planning on voting in elections.  I love my relatives, but I simply don’t have the vocabulary to tell them all these things.  Sure, they’re a blast to drink, talk and sing with, but I can’t listen to their national plight, because it’s all their fault.  Gah, it’s totally frustrating.

OK, so on the one hand, I feel like a complete dumbass for being the pollyanna.  On the other hand, this is the kind of thing that happens when you allow bad government to operate for decades.  Of course, having a large neighbor wanting to revive its empire is a problem, too, but it’s a component that highlights the larger problem.  So tomorrow I head off to Turkey, a country that’s actually fun to visit and full of friendly people.  I will go to Ukraine again once the war is over.  Until then, I say to you: Я думаю о вас каждый день, и я молюсь за ваше будущее.  Дай Боже, родственники.  And there you have it.

(Cross-posted over on Facebook, obviously)