Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ghost Leaves!

At 6th & Battery:

Happy Halloween!

My Second-Favorite Truck

Even at 6:30 in the morning when I'm headed to an uncertain session at the gym, it's still nice to see the Frank's Produce truck.

Its driver must certainly live around here. Sorry about the night vision photo, but its eeriness is season-appropriate, no? I've asked this question before, but wouldn't you buy produce from a guy that surly-looking? I sure would!

For the record, the Non-Potable Water WATER Do Not Drink Truck is my favorite truck in the whole wide world. It just is. Who can explain these things?

Friday, October 30, 2009

After Hours

Cannonball Adderley. Jive Samba

Wow, something big is wrong with the YouTubes, maybe with the whole Internet shebang. Or I could be imagining it. Or it could be a conspiracy against me. All are plausible scenarios. Anyhow, we have one of the greatest jazz groups of the sixties in top form in this clip. The wind players are of particular interest to me. You have Nat on cornet, an excellent hard bop player; Cannonball on alto sax, a monster soloist; and Yusef Lateef on tenor (and other winds), who was into playing lots of experimental stuff. I would pay real money to go back in time to see these guys live, but for the moment, I'll just have to rely on vintage TV.

Name That Neon!

You've seen this sign a million times. Clue: think 2nd Ave., mid-Belltown. There, you know where it is, right?

List your best guesses in comments.

Bell Street Park: A Modest Proposal

I just have one thing to add to my post from last Monday. Don't worry, this hasn't suddenly become my "issue;" it's just that the point of today's post seemed a little tangential and a bit naive, given the fact that I was predicting squalor and decay for the brave, new project. After this, I'll probably keep silent on the subject until the park's murder rate tops 25 per week. So there.

I was considering how the park would fit into the neighborhood and got to thinking how the northeastern corner of 2nd & Bell would figure into it. It's a vacant lot that used to be the site of the beloved Speakeasy. As you'll recall, the Speakeasy burned in 2001 and was demolished several years later. I lamented its passing last spring in this post. All that remains is a vacant lot with a fence around it. Here's the sweeping view of it now:

Yeah, it's not exactly a highlight on the Belltown tour. Here's my big idea: how about incorporating that parcel into the park project? I realize that it's private property, but how about its owner loaning it to the project until a solid development opportunity comes along? I mean, it's either hosted a derelict building or nothing for the last 8+ years. It's part of the neighborhood, it should be part of the park. It doesn't have to be home to anything that can't be removed quickly - maybe just a few benches. But if it were incorporated into the project, it would give the park a little more coherence. Present plans have the park simply running past the empty lot. What's the sense in that? Even if it's only temporary, it would be great to bring that piece of property into the fold.

I know that it's naive to think that an owner of Belltown real estate would simply cede its use to the city, but what good is it doing anyone now? It's just sitting there empty! And it's been that way for years.

Based on the response that I got from that first post, most are bracing themselves for the worst from the park. It's not that we're a bunch of cynical pessimists; it's just that we're familiar with the neighborhood and how it's policed. I think most are apprehensive that the city is merely going to build the park and walk away. If your concerns are strong enough, now you have a chance to voice them. There's going to be a community meeting about the Bell Street Park Boulevard (that's the full name) project on Tuesday, November 10th, 7-9pm, at PACCAR Pavilion at the Olympic Sculpture Park. If you think it's a bad/good idea, show up and let yourself be heard.

(Cross-posted at the P-I Blog)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

After Hours

Johnny Hallyday & Sylvie Vartan. J'ai un problème

OK, it's official. This is the worst music video I've seen in years. What's the problème with it? Well, it hilariously undermines the song's intent with its total fakeness, and it's also really boring. Johnny (born Jean-Philippe Smet) and his lady lurv, Sylvie, race through the countryside on Johnny's "motorcycle," professing their love for each other in song. Every time Johnny turns around to sing to her, I want to shout, "Keep your eyes on the road!!" Audio-wise, we have the song itself, which gets some serious competition from the motorcycle-revving sound effects. And then there's the wind machine. Put it all together and it adds up to perfect cheese. You know, back in 1965, Hallyday and Vartan hooked up, got hitched and even bore young together. For a while they were quite the golden couple, but they experienced a Burt Reynolds-Loni Anderson-style breakup and finally de-hitched in 1980. It's nice to know that before their divorce, they were able to make one of the worst videos of all time.

The Slowest News Day Ever

OK, so maybe things aren't happening in Belltown - why should they be? The weather is drizzly, cold and miserable. Conditions are not ideal to do anything but stay indoors. It's really a good thing that I went pumpkin carving last night with my nephew. Otherwise, I'd have nothing for the rest of the day. Here's how it went down:

This is William with his pumpkin. They're both in kindergarten at something-something, blah, blah, blah elementary school in Issaquah.

Here is our proposed pumpkin design. William wanted "maximum evil."

This is the finished product. William couldn't handle the pumpkin saw too well, so I did most of the cutting.

And Mr. Pumpkin is now on stage with a candle inside of him.

And then all the kids sang a song. They really need work on their intonation, I tell you what.

Then we went home and watched Jeopardy! The end.

Is the End Near?

The corner of 2nd & Bell in front of Dennis' Murder Mart has seen more than its fair share of hatred over the last six months. The sidewalk and street have been jackhammered, dug up, jackhammered some more, dug up again, rearranged, covered over with steel plates and laughed at by crazy people all in the name of improved storm drainage. I knew there would be a day that it would all end. It appears to be in sight. Observe:

After all this time, they appear to be getting ready to pour the sidewalk. Oh, that's just dandy! No more bumping into drunks coming out of Dennis' place! Finally, we'll be free to cross the street directly over to Mama's if we feel like it! The downside is that the area used to be a notorious gathering spot for crack smokers and various drunken lowlifes. With all that digging and such came old, wheezy cops to "direct traffic." Mostly, they watched stuff get dug up. Just that nominal law enforcement presence alone scattered those guys - at least during the day. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that without that singular fat old cop, it'll go back to exactly what it was.

In any case, it's nice to see all the work end at 2nd & Bell. But it's a trade-off: continuous noise and commotion for sporadic noise and drug use.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Have you ever heard of these guys? They're quite weird and they're local. I guess 25 years ago, you would have called them "artsy." I'm not being snide; it was a compliment back then. And if I engage my fuzzy memory, I'd have to say that most of the best stuff I saw a quarter century ago was of the artsy variety. Of course, some of the most tedious shows I saw back then were also artsy. Sometimes sublime and crushingly dull existed within the same performance.

Just based on the name, I originally thought that the Degenerate Art Ensemble was an act of the cabaret/semi-burlesque genre, but that was a false assumption. It's essentially a dance company that does a lot of strange and interesting stuff. If I wasn't already busy for the 30th and the 31st, I might even go see these guys, because with the gloominess of fall already upon us, I'm in the mood for strange and interesting. And it would serve as a very dark contrast to the forced cheerfulness of the upcoming Holidays. But should any of my three readers catch the show, let me know how it was.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

After Hours

Serge Gainsbourg. Qui est "in," qui est "out?"

Look out! It's Serge! And he's got something sharp! Run! This isn't my favorite Serge tune - not by a longshot - but it is certainly weird. You have Serge delivering a thoroughly undynamic performance despite getting to cut through all those "in" and "out" signs and you've got his lipsynching backup singers dressed like stewardesses. After he threatens to send us all back to science fiction, he just stands around and looks a little disoriented. There are other clips of this tune, but believe it or not, they're actually worse. Still, it's been a while since I've featured Serge. And since most of his better stuff on the YouTubes is embed-disabled, this is what we're left with. So enjoy this second-tier Serge tune, huddled masses!

Eye Guy at 6th & Wall

When you walk by the entrance to 521 Wall Street at 6th & Wall, you don't see anything weird. After all, an office building with lots of vacancy is a pretty ordinary thing, right?

But, like many things, on closer inspection, you see this:

I say well placed and well done, Eye Guy. It works nicely right there. It's subtle, but effective. And in a practical sense, it's not impossible to remove either. Good job!

McGuire Scaffold-Watch! Week: ???? + 28

Isn't that a swell fall-like photo? Yesterday I realized that it was the only sunny weather we'll be seeing for like the next month, so I rushed out to get this shot of the McGuire. I don't know why it's such a point of pride. I mean, when I started keeping track of the scaffold, I could have just taken 52 pictures and I'd have a whole year's worth of photos. It's not like one must exercise journalistic standards in blogging. In fact, it's more entertaining when you don't. One thing about blogging at the P-I that I find kind of incredibly hilarious is that people (mostly of the "unregistered user" variety) think that I'm actually reporting on something. Hey, it's blogging! And where would blogging be without a lack of research and unusual opinions? Anyhow, the fact that I go down and take a picture of the McGuire and its ugly-ass scaffold every week has nothing to do with integrity. It's just something to get me out of my apartment, which is so drafty right now that it's pretty much like living outside. Yeah, it's like outside - but with furniture and a TV.

As I was taking this shot, I heard the familiar grinding sounds coming from the exterior. Could it be that the dwarf army has returned? I didn't have time to find out for sure. I had to go see Zombieland and Black Dynamite.

Security House Scaffold-Watch: Week 3

The gradual mummification of the building continues. I'm not sure what they're doing beneath the plastic. They may be painting, they may be installing a machine that brings tornadoes down on Belltown. When you're too shy to ask the work-guys what they're doing, speculation always ensues.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

After Hours

Yves Montand. Les feuilles mortes

Here's Yves from 1951, looking kind of uni-browish and slightly frightening in a Mr. Hyde-like way, but he sounds good. You'll recognize the tune as the chestnut "Autumn Leaves" - quite appropriate, no? - but the French know it as "The Dead Leaves." Man, for a country chock full of romantics, they sure didn't mess around with that song title. Notice that the film (Parigi è sempre Parigi) is really poorly directed. There are many shots of happy Italians dancing together (Yves himself was 100% Italian), but nobody says anything. Meanwhile, Yves looms in the background singing his tale of lost love. I'm pretty sure that I'd never want to see this movie. But I hope you'll agree that having an accordion in the arrangement was a nice touch.

Oh, and speaking of movies worth seeing, I caught Zombieland and Black Dynamite today. They taught me two things: 1. Even when zombies run really fast, the film can still be funny, and 2. Black Dynamite truly cares about orphans. My favorite line was "I was the best CIA agent that the CIA ever had, man!" Both are great films, but Black Dynamite might just be a masterpiece.

3rd Avenue to Get Its Share of Street-Hatred!

First, 4th Ave. bowed under the yoke of heavy-duty street voodoo, then 2nd was the victim. Did 3rd Ave. think it could escape? It probably did. Well, it did get its sidewalks all carved up last spring, but now the SDOT is eying the street and drooling with malice. Are you paralyzed with terror yet? You're not? OK, well, the news isn't that bad. Your precious 3rd Ave. isn't getting a full repave; the orange-vests are just cutting up and removing random slabs of roadway between Virginia and Pike. There's no indication they'll be replacing them. No wait, it says right here that they be doing just that. Work should last until the end of November. Normally, I would question that schedule, but the SDOT are super-wizards of scheduling. They said that 2nd Ave.'s Operation Enduring Pavement would be done by September 19th and guess what? It was.

OK, so enjoy the sound of the concrete cutting machine, northern Belltown segment of 3rd Avenue!

Coco No Mo

The other day, I went past the former Minnie's and briefly former Whym (lord, what a terrible name!) to see whether a new place was really in the works. It is. Look:

OK, that's not the best picture, but at this point there are no good pictures to be had. There's brown paper on the windows, the Whym sign is still up and in the brief time it has lain fallow, some taggers have belabored it with their, uh, tags. Rumor has it that it will be called Coco. Ugh, that's almost (but not quite) as bad as Whym. Coco sounds like either it's run by a chain-smoking, dress-designing Frenchwoman or a chimp. Fortunately though, according to the liquor license application in the window (see that little orange piece of paper in the window?), the real name is going to be Blush. OK, marginally better. Nobody ever named a chimp Blush, so we're good. My crystal ball is out being polished, so there's no way for me to predict whether they'll succeed. It's very tough to say. For years and years, Minnie's had fair-to-poor food, terrible service and sketchy clientele. Whym had all those things (with perhaps slightly better service) and it lasted all of 5 months. It's not the world's best location, but it was good enough for Minnie's. My only accurate prediction is that if they make the place too fancy, it'll only last three months. I have spoken. I am Igor.

Monday, October 26, 2009

After Hours

Byanka. Pesnya pro leto (Summer's Song)

Happy trashy Russian pop Monday! Today we present the stripper-iffic Byanka. She declares herself the queen of Russian R&B before the grinding starts. You'll get to see some elements of Russian folklore incongruously wedged into this video. And yes, that's a very fast stove they're riding across the desert to get to the "hut by the sea," which just happens to be perched on chicken feet - just like Baba Yaga's hut, only without Baba Yaga and her cannibalism. In between all this, you get to see a lot of Byanka's hypnotic belly button. So yes, very weird and whatnot, but it wasn't the most supremely blatant video I could find. Not by a longshot. That honor falls to "Ya soshla c uma" by t.a.T.u. When it came out in this country, they called it "All the Things She Said." Compared to that Zhanna Friske videos are like Bergman films. Yeah, I'm gonna save that till next Monday. But it's not like you can't get on the YouTubes and see it for yourself. It might rot your mind and turn you into a serial killer. Or you can wait. Either way, trashy Russian pop Monday will continue.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

I didn't know anything about this guy until I heard a story about him on NPR this weekend. They played a lot of his music. Everything sounds really big. Initially, it's really impressive how dedicated he is to making ambitious pop music. But after listening for a while, I noticed how much of his stuff sounded derivative. It wasn't just that some melodic elements were cliches - that's to be expected in pop music; it was more like he'd lifted passages of entire songs from other musicians. I think I heard what sounded a lot like Oasis in one tune. That's kind of ironic, since the Gallaghers have often bragged that they rip everybody off and get rich doing it. In addition to that, his tune that was supposed to sound like Elton John sounded a little too much like Sir Elton. I dunno, maybe Mika has founded a new genre: rip pop. It's about time it had a name.

But I wish him all kinds of luck with the pop music. I hope he puts on a good show.

Bell Street Park: Two Possible Outcomes

It's been several months now since the Bell Street Park Project was announced. Next month, the first public meeting will take place about it. In the city's own words, this is what's going to happen:

"The project converts one traffic lane and reconfigures parking to create a park-like corridor through the heart of Belltown. The four block area will be improved with landscaping, better lighting, and more open space. Sidewalks on the north side of Bell Street will be widened to nearly 30 feet with landscaping, lighting and space for children's play areas and other recreational activities. Natural landscaping and swales - vegetation in the right-of-way that collects and cleans rainwater - will be added."

Basically, they're building a park on an extended sidewalk that stretches from 1st Ave. to 5th Ave. The cost will be $2.5 million, which, compared to other projects such as the proposed tunnel, doesn't cause much gnashing of teeth. I've had a chance to think about this new park and I see one of two things happening:

1. It will be a cool urban oasis where people can relax amid well-maintained greenery and children can frolic on the super-fun playground equipment.


2. It will immediately be overrun by bums, crazy people and drug addicts.

Based on my 19 years in Belltown, I think that the second scenario is more likely, but the park can still be an asset to the neighborhood.

If you look at two of the parks closest to Belltown (Steinbrueck and Denny), you can get a good idea of what Bell Street Park will be like. At Steinbrueck, people hang out on the benches and panhandle passersby and at Denny, around a dozen people are generally sacked out under the trees. weather permitting. Bell Street Park may well be a combination of these two groups. I don't think it'll be anywhere near as bad as Regrade Park back when it was commonly known as "Crack Park." That was a different time and much of that element has moved on. Believe me, if Belltown was anywhere as bad as it was 10 years ago, they wouldn't even be proposing this park.

But this isn't merely a matter of sending bums packing on sight. The new park doesn't have to be a police state. It's more about giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy the park, from those who live in condo penthouses to those less fortunate. One public place that seems to have Belltown's inherent problems under control is the green space next to the 4th & Blanchard Building, also known as Darth Vader Gardens. You can go there anytime during the day and hang out without being hassled by panhandlers or crazy people. The grounds are nicely looked after and there are only very minor problems with trash and graffiti. I'm not sure how they achieve that balance, but if they could transfer it to the new park, it might be to everyone's benefit. It could be the proliferation of "PRIVATE PROPERTY" signs that put people on notice to be on their best behavior or it might be the actual pristine condition of the space. When something is well cared for, people naturally are less inclined to mess it up.

No matter what comes at this soon-to-be-convened public meeting, the park will be go. The city really wants it to be built. In fact, the reason why Bell Street has been such a godawful mess for the last four months is that they're making all these drainage modifications in anticipation of the park. Here are some shots of the work:

Construction is due to begin this spring, to be completed by winter 2010. I really hope that it does turn out to be an urban oasis, but I'm afraid that the reality of Belltown might not allow that.

Read more Hideous Belltown!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Coming Soon to the Moore!

I think a better question might be: why not music? But that's neither here nor there, since this is the a benefit for MusicCorps, a non-profit that styles itself after the Peace Corps. Music education was pretty horrible when I was going to school and it's gotten even worse since then. I got all my practical music theory from books, but there was absolutely no chance to figure out what any of it meant until I hit college. So yes, this MusicCorps is a good thing if it gives kids a chance to come into contact with people who can untangle certain topics like theory and technique. I wish them much luck, even the people on the bill I know and don't like. I wish those guys the most luck of all.

Your Sunday Squirrel

Let's say you run into a squirrel. There's a bench nearby. He climbs on top of it and waits patiently for a peanut, hardly moving. Do we all smell a perfect shot? I did too. But I managed to screw up this opportunity almost completely. Every shot turned out terrible, especially the blurry one. Here they are:

Gosh, I have no idea what went wrong. I"ve gotten way better shots completely by accident. I guess maybe that was the trouble; it was too perfect of an opportunity. And it was a total bust. And what's up with the colors? I mean, they change in every shot. It even looks like a different squirrel. Usually, my camera is a little more consistent. I dunno, maybe they made the colors all weird during its repair-vacation in Laredo. Anyhow, this was a true blown assignment - even though nobody assigned me to the squirrel beat at Denny Park.

I Got Yer Fall Colors Right HERE!

While I was at Denny Park the other day, screwing up that squirrel photo shoot, I noticed that the leaves were dying in a really appealing way. Although not spectacular in the northeastern/New England way, with lots of dazzling reds and oranges, you do see a lot of green and yellow. And even though Denny Park is not in Belltown, it's almost close enough for us to claim it as our own. Here are some of the highlights:

So there you are. Fall in Denny Park. Love it, please.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

From the "Losing Our Edge" Department

I took this a little while ago at the Pike Place Market:

I think the message would have a lot more impact if he wasn't pushing a stroller.

So if this guy manages not to get hit by a train and lives long enough to see his child grow to adolescence, I predict that whatever his kid listens to will scare the hell out of him. It'll probably be the opposite of death metal. It is the way of things.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

I know that Ani's done a heck of a lot since Lilith Fair, but I just can't disassociate her from that less-than-fortunate time. If I remember right, Ani was the angry one. Fiona Apple was the sad one with the bare midriff. Sarah McLachlan was the artsy one and mother goddess. And so it was. There were others, but I don't remember them too well. Do you realize that that Lilith nonsense was almost 20 years ago? In any case, it's nice to see Ani still on the road. I'm guessing that she's got a new album of some sort, hence the tour. I'm also guessing that she's probably not as angry as she was during the initial Lilith surge. My only sure-fire prediction is that the Moore will smell funny.

Friday, October 23, 2009

After Hours

Dave Brubeck Quartet. Take Five

Here it is, the odd-meter, skinny-tie classic. The performance is from 1961. Although it's a little fast, Paul Desmond is in fine form on alto. Drummer Joe Morello screws up a few times. As with all drummers, he does it loudly. But I can cut the guy some slack. After all, he was, y'know, going blind. The two great things about this tune are: 1. it's by Paul Desmond, one of the coolest drunks ever, and, 2. Dave Brubeck doesn't take a solo. I've long considered DB one of the most boring jazz pianists of all time. Him and John Lewis from the Modern Jazz Quartet, they top my "most profoundly boring" list. But what about all those great tunes DB wrote? Well, what about them? I like "The Duke" and "In Your Own Sweet Way." That's about it. Once again, Desmond (born Paul Breitenfeld) wrote "Take Five," because he was a drunken genius. Next to Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley, he's my favorite alto player. Everybody loves that Desmond sound. He once joked that if Downbeat Magazine gave out awards for slowest and quietest sax player, he'd win every year. Such a clever guy. I think the secret to his playing is that he smoked a lot - three packs a day. I used to smoke around a pack a day and it was really tough to play anything loud for any amount of time. I really hate to think of how it is for somebody who smoked three times as much. And that's what got him. The poor guy quit Brubeck, talked about how he was going to write a book, a manifestation of his immense cleverness, and never did it. Instead, he hung out at bars, drank a lot and gave away the clever for free. He died in 1977 at age 52. Brubeck is still with us. So are Joe Morello and bassist, Gene Wright.

Name That Neon!

OK, thanks to the guy who guessed last week's neon. I expect him to achieve great things. In case you're interested, the answer was Xanadu. What other shop in Belltown would be so blatantly pro-Bat Man? This week's selection is also pretty easy. Here it is:

Your clue: think 2nd Avenue; think Etsy/crafts triumvirate. That's all you get! Now start guessing!

Trivia Triumph, Part Googleplex

How was trivia at Jillian's? Gosh, so nice of you to ask! Well, by some miracle authored by Jesus or Allah, we won. I'm not sure how we accomplished it, because we were correcting another team's answers and they were kicking our asses until the very last round. Particularly dismal was the round when we had to match the hip-hop lyrics with the hip-hop artist. Basically, that's my nightmare category. Through sheer guesswork, we got four out of ten. We did well on everything else (like the "name the movie that features Seattle" and the "name the person who has an American city for a last name" categories), but I still don't see how we won. Well, I'm not questioning anyone's wisdom or ability to add a simple string of numbers. I'm basking in the warm rays of victory! Oh, and unlike Schultzy's, we did win money - it just about covered my bar tab. So after two agonizing tries - and finishes of 8th and 5th place - we now celebrate a victory and we move up in the overall standings. Hooray for us!

Sorry that I didn't take any pictures. I was too busy taunting our opponents.

Here's a Good, Old-Fashioned, Street-Blocking Belltown Protest

Last night as I was hurrying off to trivia at Jillian's, I noticed a rumpus going on at 4th & Lenora, in front of the Cinerama. Here's what it looked like:

The topic of the protest was police brutality. These guys were against it. Gosh, I can't remember the last time there was a protest for police brutality. Anyhow, these guys blocked off 4th Ave., chanted a few things over bullhorns and moved off up Lenora:

There was quite a sizable police presence along their route. I want to stress that the cops were busting no heads at all; they were just handling traffic. You know, when I got my crossing-against-the-light ticket back in July, the cop was quite brutal, come to think of it - brutally a jerk! OK, so the protesters went their way and I went mine. I ended up at a bar and, when they were finished marching, I'm pretty sure most of the protesters did too.

The Suyama Space: Belltown's Stealth Gallery

OK, so it's not really a gallery per se, with things for sale and such; it's more of an exhibition venue for larger installations - I'm trying really hard not to use the word "space" too often. Either way, it's well worth a visit. Since 1998, curator and gallery co-founder (with George Suyama) Beth Sellars has been presenting three exhibitions a year by various and diverse artists in the atrium of the Suyama Peterson Deguchi design firm at 2nd & Battery. I've been past this place about a million times before I dared to ring the buzzer to be let inside. This is what I saw:

Pretty spectacular, no? This current installation is called Grotesque Arabesque by Dan Corson. It shows through December 18th. The great thing about this piece is that it seems to expand space. The atrium area measures something in the neighborhood of 40' x 20'. But through the use of low light, black light and reflective surfaces, Corson manages to make the area seem huge. This installation bills itself as "otherworldly." That actually might be a bit of an understatement. My photos only capture one aspect of the piece. To fully appreciate it, you need to see it with your own eyes. And in order to do that, go to Suyama Peterson Deguchi any weekday during business hours, ring the bell (to the right of the garage door), walk up the ramp and soak in the vibe. It's free and you can spend as much or as little time there as you'd like. It may be the coolest thing you do all week.

If you'd like to see photos from past exhibitions, visit the Suyama Space's website. There is some truly incredible stuff there. Until just recently, I was hardly aware that such a wonderful place was just down the street.

(Cross-posted at the Seattle P-I Belltown Blog)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

After Hours

Jacques Dutronc. Et moi, et moi, et moi

Here's Jacques doing another work of French proto-punk. It's very garage-tacular. Funny thing, usually songs have at least two contrasting parts. In jazz, the usual song form in standards is A-A-B-A. This loosely corresponds with the basic verse-verse-chorus-verse of pop music. But in pop tunes, with numerous exceptions, they're structured verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus or some such. I'm don't want to be too technical here; I'm only trying to point out that, by contrast, Jacques' tune is just verse. If it was a jazz tune, it would just be an A section and nothing more than that. This doesn't mean it's crappy. In fact, after having heard it a few times, I find it really hypnotic - like a lot of his grungier stuff. This video has him climbing over chairs, singing lots of nonsense and acting generally nutty. Yeah, he was quite the character. How much of a character? Well, he managed to snag the super-lovely Françoise Hardy. Yep, that's right. They lived in sin for some of the sixties, all of the seventies and then married in 1982. They're still together. Gosh, what a lucky, strange-acting guy!

Is He Back?

While I taking a stroll beyond Belltown's confines today, I saw this at 9th & Olive:

Why, if it isn't my old pal, Scary Skull Guy! You know, I don't get to 9th & Olive very often, so for all I know, this has been there for months. No, I don't think Scary Skull Guy is back - sorry to get your hopes up. I think this is just a "farewell skull" or something like that. I haven't seen anything new by him in Belltown in more than two months. He's packed up, gone bye-bye, hit the trail, taken a powder and other idiomatic expressions meaning "departed from here." But Scary Skull Guy, in case you're reading this and contemplating a comeback, just keep this in mind: if you make a scary skull outside of Belltown (to summarize: not between Stewart & Denny and Western & 6th), it doesn't count. Let's see what you got.

And Another Thing...

I ran across another curious thing during my jaunt outside of Belltown. The following scene is from Westlake. Take a look:

Yeah, that's a preacher guy. Most evangelical types at Westlake are apocalyptic nutjobs. Everybody's going to hell in their book. They just want to let you know about it, and they never seem to be able to stop talking. This guy was quite a bit different. As you can see, he's well dressed and he was well behaved. And yes, he's using charts to convince you to turn to Jesus. Why not PowerPoint, business-preacher? I didn't stay for the entire presentation, because I had to go pray to the Easter Bunny. If I don't, who's gonna bring me Easter eggs?

Other than those two things, my trip outside of Belltown was uneventful.

The Latest on the Night Kitchen

There you go! It opens on Halloween. So you can go watch the last performance of La Traviata at McCaw Hall, go home, put on your banana costume and have a late dinner at the Night Kitchen. I really can't wait until this place opens up. I hope it lasts!

Oh, in case you don't already know, this place is on Stewart, between 2nd & 3rd - in the space formerly occupied by Entre Nous (*sniff*).

No One Could Have Predicted...

...that when you leave Belltown's worst graffiti uneradicated...

...other efforts will follow:

It's a pretty well-understood urban rule that graffiti accumulates. If you don't wipe it out immediately, more will follow. You'd think that the property managers at the Cristalla would understand that, but no. They're merely surrendering the entire south face of their very expensive 24-story condo tower to taggers, graffitists and various other creators of visual noise. How much are their tenants paying per month in maintenance dues? Obviously, they're not getting their money's worth.

Yeah, I know that I've really been on the Cristalla's case since this post last week for the P-I, but they face the same set of problems as any other building in Belltown. It just seems that every other building is better at responding to those problems. Heck, even the Rivoli is more on the ball.

Konstruktion Kronikle

For the last few months, I've been doing quasi-weekly updates from the Recovery Cafe and A.L. Humphrey House sites. This was all well and good when they were getting things demolished or laying foundations and whatnot, but it's absolutely no good in showing all the progress they've made in just a short amount of time. So, with the aid of time lapsed photography (meaning that I took pictures one fine day, then returned two weeks later), I'll show you how quickly these projects are being built. Let's start with the Recovery Cafe:

Here it is two weeks ago. The level of construction is even with the sidewalk. And now currently:

They've built an entire story in that time. Can you feel the progress? Because I sure can! Three more stories to go.

Here's the A.L. Humphrey House two weeks ago:

Sorry about shooting (almost) directly into the sun. Here's what it looks like this week:

Yes, they've forged ahead considerably. Four more stories to go.

These buildings will continue to go up very quickly. They're simple, unadorned designs built for practical use. Yes, they are projected to be boxy, but that might not be a bad thing. We'll see about that when they're finished. Until then, we can only marvel at how quickly they're going up.

Of course, what post would be complete without a shot of the A.L. Humphrey's crane? Here is it: