Wednesday, March 31, 2010

After Hours

Françoise Hardy. Je suis d'accord

Here's some early FH back in the "ye-ye" days. It's from the film Château en Suède , directed by that notorious womanizer, Roger Vadim. Sure, she's not singing live, but it's a movie! She just merely strolls around, sings at one guy, then scoots over to the guitarist and that's about it. She doesn't pay attention to the old dude. I believe she's 17 or 18 in this clip and yes, she's kind of cute, but she got much better looking as the sixties went on, held on to that for the seventies and kind of bottomed out in the eighties. Since then, she has once again gotten better looking, but in a handsome-old-lady kind of way. I believe she's 65 or 66 these days. And so is France Gall. So there.

Welcome to the Neighborhood!

Well, Belltown's newest restaurant is open near the corner of 2nd & Battery (next to Rob Roy and one door down from the yummy Moroccan place where you eat with your hands):

It's called Madhu. Not Your Dhu, Madhu. I especially like the garish painting on the outside. Check it out:

Very greenish, no? I'm expecting their food to be better than their exterior design. Like many Indian restaurants around these parts, they have a lunch buffet and a happy hour. I will check it out soon - the next time I win at poker. Oh, the painful memories! I just hope that five stars MEANS five stars there. Most places really ease off the heat, because Seattleites in general like their ethnic food bland. So when you order an item and tell them five (or sometimes six) stars, you get what in other parts of the country is only one or two stars. Dudes, if I didn't want to breathe fire, I wouldn't have ordered five stars! Anyhow, let's hope they understand the concept.

It's NOT a Beautiful Day... the neighborhood. Wow, the last 24 hours have been really gypsy curse-esque. Last night, I played poker at the stoner game-of-the-week. The previous night (Monday), I took second at a smaller game. This netted me a cool $45. Don't get me wrong, it was totally grueling. When we got down to four guys, I was the overwhelming chip leader, but I lost big to all three opponents, but managed to stay in the game for the last hour and finally prevail as runner-up to Simon. Last night was similar, except that I lost 60% of my chips on the second hand of the evening. By my own estimate, I should have been out by the fourth. But I rallied and began winning hands. Once I had enough chips, I started knocking guys out. My cards were mediocre and my luck was middling, but by the time we were down to four again - two of my three opponents were returnees from the previous night - I was chip leader. When John went out, we were three. I still led in chips, but ID was coming up in the world. Then came The Hand. I went all in, hoping to steal the blinds, which were substantial - 3,200/6,400. I didn't expect to get called. I had ace-ten suited. ID called me with pocket sixes. I hit an ace, but ID snagged a third six. I lost 18,000 chip on that single six. I'm still smarting from that. All that remained was for Jason to knock me out, which he did the very next hand. If I had won, I would have knocked out ID, split with Jason, taken championship honors and won over $100. I did everything right, played a very determined game, gambled like a crazed animal and still lost. Bummer.

I'm not sure why, but I slept very poorly last night - maybe three hours total. It wasn't because of my honorable mention finish. It was just because. I got up at the regular time, went to the gym, worked out till I was woozy and then headed home. On my way from the gym, I accidentally rubbed my eye. I've worn hard contacts since the eighth grade, so any sort of eye rubbing causes those lenses to pop clean out of your eye. That's exactly what happened. But it was an accident! It doesn't matter. I immediately stopped, got down on my hands and knees and started searching for my errant contact. Believe it or not, that sort of thing has happened to me before and I've managed to find it. It's actually occurred about half a dozen times. The most dramatic was when I was crossing 2nd Ave. at Lenora. My contact popped out, I immediately got down on my hands and knees and found it before the light changed. This time, I was doing the same thing. Several people stopped to ask if I was OK. I admit, it looks pretty weird. Two women actually stopped to help. That was mighty nice of them. Unfortunately, I didn't recover it. So now I'm back on the glasses, which are tremendously thick. I look like Mr. Science, or like that blog photo of myself on the left plus 36 years (but with slightly better hair). The real challenge here is getting a replacement contact. My hard lens prescription resides with my former eye doctor in Ballard. Since I last saw him, he has retired and, uh, died. But I'm sure my records live on somewhere. I called them and they of course want to do a full eye exam. Ahem, no health insurance. I hope they can work with me on this. Yeah, so the last 12 or so hours haven't gone so good. And on top of everything, I forgot to post an After Hours clip last night. That's the first time I've neglected to do that on a weeknight in nine months. That should also tell you how exciting my life is in general. So just to sum up: despite my best efforts, I'm not $100+ dollars richer, I have to wear large, thick glasses and I have to sweet-talk a healthcare worker into canceling my eye exam. Just dandy. I can't wait for what will happen next. Being a Slav, I'm always instinctively bracing myself for the worst, but I'm uniquely surprised and stunned when bad stuff goes down.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Here's Something I Ran Across Last Week

...And forgot to post:

What is it? Plastic cups jammed into and semi-deflated balloons attached to a portable section of chainlink fence on 6th, between Blanchard and Lenora, right next to the site of the dearly-departed UA Cinemas. What does it mean? Beats me, but somebody actually spent time decorating this orphaned segment of fence. It's quite an odd sight at the edge of a vacant lot. I just had to take a picture of it.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Not to be confused with Kathy Griffin, who was recently here. No, this one is a folk music fixture and not a famously second-rate comedienne. If you want to know more about her, check out her bio on the on the STG site. It's very looooong and detailed. You'll learn how much she paid for her first guitar and where Danial Lanois' Kingsway Studios is located, among other things. Speaking of folk music, did you know that A Prairie Home Companion is in town over at the Paramount? Yeah, I know, *groan.*" That has to be my least favorite show of all time. We're talking TV, radio, Internet or puppet. I would rather sit through an entire season of Growing Pains (or Groin Pains as we called it) than listen to a single show. One of my life's ambitions has been to punch Garrison Keillor in the face. I mean, how many 11-year-old banjo virtuosos can you have on your show before you drive your audience insane? I tried, I really tried to like the show, but there's only so much yodeling a man can take. If you love PHC, good for you. You obviously see something in it I don't, because for me, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard for the entire running time. Gah!

Monday, March 29, 2010

After Hours

TT. Poteryanniy ray (Paradise lost)

Here's a little piece of Russian pop music history - and you can see how far they've come in just a decade. This clip is just people dancing around while the song plays. All Russian music videos (OK, at least 80%) used to be like this. I have no idea whether these people are in the band or not, but does it really matter? I don't think so, because the tune is every bit as bad as the video. There's that line that gets repeated over and over and over: "mezhdu mnoy i toboy" (between me and you) and that's about half the song right there. Yes, it's amazingly tedious and claustrophobic for pop music. And it isn't trashy enough. But just think of how bad things would be if all Russian videos were still like this.

Please Don't Call It Alex

It's the Volta now! You know, I've spend a fair amount of time documenting various construction/renovation projects around this neighborhood, but the Volta at 1st & Bell has escaped my notice. Why? Well, probably because it's been in stasis for the better part of a year. It has just been sitting there with a scaffold around it with no activity at all. Even before that, progress was very slow. I learned to ignore it. It was begun in June 2007 and slated for completion in Fall 2008. Yeah, financial crisis Fall 2008. That didn't work out so well. But here it is, almost three years after ground was broken and it's still not done. Yes, it has a new name (in honor of Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electric battery - I kid you not), and its intent has changed by moving down a few rungs on the luxury ladder.

Here are some more photos:

As you can see, now that the scaffold is off, it's a decent looking building, though I'm thinking that its neighbors at the Apex (Apex + Alex = get it??) would dispute that. The new building came in and completely blocked the view to the outside world that many of the Apex's units had. Now they look at a wall. But nevertheless, it's not a horribly ugly building whatsoever. Its design is along the lines of the neo-retro deconstructed style that is quite popular today. My issue with the Volta is that even before the financial crisis, it wasn't practical or unnecessary. It's too small (just 34 units on eight levels) and its location is not great. Those facing west get a sweeping view of the viaduct and those looking east will see, uh, Belltown. And it can all be yours for $300,000 to $1,100,000. This is a substantial reduction from the original asking prices of $500,000 to $2,000,000+. Because of the price cut, new residents can expect what they're euphemistically calling "more standardized finishes" - meaning that everything's cheaper: countertops, appliances, fixtures, etc. Even though it's more affordable, it doesn't mean that it should have ever come into being. It was originally supposed to be embody ultra-luxury. Well, so much for that. Today, it's just a mini-condo building with a dubious future. To me, the name change spells trouble. No matter what it's called, things will be tough. I hate to say it, but I think things would have been much better for many people if they'd just left the property as a parking lot. But let's wish them luck.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Last night, it started out sounding like a gun battle of some sort, but I soon realized that it was fireworks coming from Elliott Bay. I have no idea what the occasion was. Maybe it was the celebration of Peter's birthday. Hey, he got mention at the Moore, so why not? Anyhow, I have these few not-so-great cell phone photos of the display:

If anybody knows the reason for the display (other than it being Peter's birthday), let me know.

Your Sunday Squirrel

Check out the many moods of this little guy:

He was very patient, so he got the finest peanut that I had. Well, after being concerned about the fate of the Denny Park squirrel population once again, I saw quite a few twice this week. Both times I counted five of the little fellows, but all seemed quite young. One didn't even know what a peanut was, as he walked right past it. Oh well, but the important part is that there are still squirrels in Denny Park - patient, not-very-dynamic squirrels.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Wow, so you can put anything up on the Moore marquee? That's encouraging. I want them to put up "SMASH THE STATE" or, even better: "KYLE IS A RETARD." I actually don't know anybody named Kyle at the moment; I just think it would freak out anybody named that. Anyhow, happy birthday, Peter - whoever you are.

Friday, March 26, 2010

After Hours

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis. Cherry Juice

Here we have Thad (on trumpet) and Mel (on drums) and a dozen or so of their close personal friends playing for a bunch of Germans in the seventies. This is a Jones chart and arrangement. I did this with the Seattle Central Big Band some years back and let me tell you, it's the toughest thing I've ever played. I had a solo on tenor (it's the big tenor solo - I only got lost three times!) and then the sax soli (when whole section plays together) was total murder. We sounded rough, but we made up for it by being loud. These guys are tons better and not blasting quite as much. The beginning is a bit rough, but the rest of it is superb. And if you're ever at the Village Vanguard on a Monday night, the Jones/Lewis veterans get together and play all the old charts. (At least I think they still own Monday nights.) Give this number a request and hear what happens. It'll probably be amazing.

Special Announcement: Let the Countdown Begin!

Just thought I'd let you know that in four weeks I'm going here:

Yeah, I'm guardedly looking forward to it. I mean, I get to see family (minus my favorite aunt who passed away last month) and see Ukraine (it's actually quite green and pretty) and travel with my American cousin and her husband, but the more I visit (I've gone seven times, but not since 2002), the more I realize that you really can't have fun in Ukraine. Sure, you can drink and sing and dance around among kin, but the rest of the nation is so not disposed towards enjoying themselves. That's why I'm heading down to Turkey afterward. It always makes the Ukrainian ordeal seem more pleasant than it actually was. The only thing I'm not looking forward to is arriving in Antalya. I'm totally not a fan of that city, although it does have a kickass museum. The rest of the city is not my speed. They try to play it up as the capitol of the so-called "Turkish Riviera," along with its attendant ostentation and snobbery. It just doesn't work for me. I prefer the wilds of the Lycian Peninsula to the immediate west. I'm definitely going to spend time at Olimpos, even though last visit it was infested with loud, drunken Australians. If it's that way again, there's always Ptarra. This was apparently Iliad character Sarpedon's hometown and it's just down the road from Xanthus. They've got a great beach and very nice people. Other than the beautiful town of Dalyan, I have no other places on my itinerary. Everything else is open to consideration. I might go to Cappadocia, I might head east to Antakya, heck, I might even go to Nemrut again. As long as I get to Istanbul in time for my flight out, everything will be dandy. This will be my fifth visit to Turkey. I've seen the touristy places (Troy, Ephesus, Pergamum, Bodrum, Oludeniz, Fethiye etc.), I've seen the less-touristy places (Afrodisias, Catal Hüyük, Hattusas, Perge, Aspendos, Kaiseri, Gordion, etc.), but does anybody have any suggestions? I'm totally fine hanging out on a beach the whole time, getting a killer tan and formulating bizarre topics for pop songs, but Turkey is a land of wonders and I want to see them all. Just one thing: I'm not interested in the Black Sea Coast and cities like Trabzon, Sinop and Samsun. They're a pain to get to and I've heard that they're not particularly interesting - plus, they have fairly rotten weather.

Anyhow, I'll curtail the blogging (such as it is) about a week prior so I can run around and buy stuff before I go, but otherwise, let the countdown begin.

McGuire Scaffold-Watch! Week: ???? + 49

Here's also a new-ish way to look at the McGuire. I almost got hit by a car getting it. People driving on Wall St. are so unsympathetic to the Scaffold Watch. If they knew just how important this was to the community and indeed the entire city, they'd let me take care of business wherever I pleased. But alas, things are not that way. Not only has the Scaffold Watch become something of mockery of itself (and remember, it started off as mockery - wrap your brains around THAT, sweet people), but drivers don't like it when you stand in the middle of the street to take a picture. Life is funny that way - not funny ha-ha, but funny-tragic. So as you can see, the scaffold, she still stands, gleaming and defiant. The dwarf army was hard at work on the building's slopes. They're always working hard. It's part of their culture. That's why they will never finish the job. They love hard work so much that they won't allow it to end. Here is a prediction: after returning from my trip, both scaffolds will still be there. I am certain of this.

Security House Scaffold-Watch: Week 23

Look, a new angle! It really shows off the attractive plastic that enshrouds the building and prevents those miserable old souls who live on that side from seeing their environs. Can you imagine being a shut-in and having your view obscured thusly? You wouldn't even know what season it was. Well, you could use a calendar, but I'm pretty sure that shut-ins don't buy those. Anyhow, you see that there is nothing new here (except the angle of the photo). There were no signs of life or activity when I passed by. That doesn't mean much. The workers could have been praying or napping or catching butterflies during my brief stop and then gone back to cutting lots of metal. I've said this before, but I expected this operation to be over long ago. So guys, what's the hold-up?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

After Hours

France Gall. Cinq minutes d'amour

Gosh, this is a really nice track from 1972. By that time, French acoustic scientists had finally constructed a microphone that could record France's voice and make it actually sound good. If you'll recall, up until the early seventies, her voice often had the effect of driving people completely nuts. It had a grating tone and was simultaneously in and out of tune. But in this song she sounds great. Thank you, French science!

Name That Neon!

I haven't done this in forever! I envisioned a brave new winter of me venturing out in the wind and rain to capture some of this crummy neighborhood's more exotic neonage. Yeah, that worked out well, didn't it? Anyhow, write your best guess in the comments section. It's pretty easy. Hint: it was there eons before Mud Bay.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

What won't fit on the marquee is that they're playing the music of David Bowie. Hmmm... Call me old-fashioned, but when I want to listen to the music of David Bowie, I usually listen to, uh, David Bowie. This might work, too, but I'm not really looking for alternate interpretations. In this concert's write-up, they talk about who "arranged and conducted" this whole mess. Well, it sounds like a very formal evening. My tux is in the shop, so I can't go. But thanks anyway!

Trivia Triumph

It's been a while since I did a trivia update. That's because I've been doing it close to each week with a team competing at Jillian's. We've been doing extremely well, battling for first place and such, and since it's a series, there hasn't been that much to write about. I'm in this weird limbo status between a sub and a real team-guy. They've given me the last two weeks off so they can seek out more subs and frankly, in just that time, I've missed trivia; the feelings of confusion and insignificance you get when you don't know the answer and all that. Well, last night some friends (and friends of a friend) got together at the K&K on Aurora for their quiz. The thing I like about it is there's a real-live guy there (with the wickedest north-Midlands accent ever) who makes it up and gets progressively drunker as the night goes on. Most of last night's questions were simple to the extreme (What month was Pearl Harbor bombed?) and others were nigh impossible (the visual round), but I had no idea how we were doing. Based on our confusion, I ranked us around fourth place; y'know, respectable but out of the running. I mean, the visual round really raked us over the coals. There were a lot of people from Dancing with the Stars and I DO NOT DO that show, because of its utter sad pointlessness. However, credit should be given to my friend Jim who was able to recognize Johnny Carson beneath a lot of obfuscation. And so it went. It all felt like an honorable defeat. When the scores were tallied up, however, we were tied for first with two other teams. What are the odds?? It all came down to the three of the different teams' members giving a spin to the K&K's wheel of fortune. I don't know why they have one, but it's there. The first spin was in the thirties, the second person hit the sixties, I gave it a last mighty pull and landed on 91. Victory was ours - so was 90+ dollars. Totally not bad. I don't feel so awful about missing the years that Lou Piniella became manager of the Mariners (1993; we said 1992) or that the film A Few Good Men came out (1992; we said 1993). Winning smooths away all that. So there.

Incidentally, my Jillian's team scored a season low in my absence last week - 28 points less than our total from the previous outing. We were in first place, and now we're not. But it doesn't really matter. They can score almost nothing tonight and it'll still be fine. We're going to be in the finals next week. We won the grand prize last season (I wasn't there for that; I was just a sub at that point), so we're going to try to make it two in a row. Maybe we'll get lucky and hit the right categories. That's all you need to win.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

After Hours

Sheila. La vamp

Gosh, what a mess! Well, at least the sound quality is OK. You know, that doesn't really look or sound like Sheila, but it's on the Internet, so it must be what it says it is. Here you have everyone dressed in red, so you know they're all on the same team. And they do their act and are rewarded with canned applause at the end, just like everyone everywhere during the sixties. So yes, it's silly and kitschy and whatnot, but it's the best thing I could find today, so enjoy it as much as you can.

One More Thing...

I forgot to post this photo from the sidewalk sale last Saturday:

It's the meter maid chariot that can only be used on sunny days. It's not a Segway and they're sick of people asking them that. It's something else - something much cooler. Look at all those mags! Gosh, it must have two of them! It's weird because the meter maid stopped to ticket this car for having expired tabs. The only hitch was that it was from California. I didn't know they could do that. Well, I guess they can. Anyhow, whenever I see this tri-wheeled piece of coolness, I'm gonna take a picture of it. This I promise.

How Slow Is the News Today?

Very. This is all I got:

The city has gone and put up this bike sign across the street. Uh, wow. Now you're able find Elliott Bay without bothering to turn your head. Hooray. And it also points you towards Pioneer Square. My directions to tourists are always: "Walk south. When you see all the bums and old buildings, you're there." So that's the news from Belltown. I'm tellin' ya, it's been a very slow news month, except of course for "The Incident" across the street last week. Speaking of the V-Bar, this sign is right out front. So far, no bullet holes! The only other bit of excitement around here was that my neighbor across the hall puked all over the main stairs and just outside her own door. Yeah, it wasn't really exciting; it was just kind of gross. I hope her hangover was severe. Me, I didn't hear any of the wretching. I slept right through it. Didn't hear a thing. And that was probably for the best. The Rivoli's manager cleaned it up in record time and was even almost cheerful about it. He's got two kids and they do a fair amount of barfing, so he's used to it. I'm still kind of skeeved out about the whole scene and I don't even know why I'm mentioning it. I guess that's what you do when the news is slow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

After Hours

Michel Fugain & le Big Bazar. Les Acadiens

This is what Fugain thought that country music sounded like. You know what? It's actually pretty accurate. There's just a little chromatic movement that doesn't compute, but overall, it's a pretty spirited rendition. This is mostly about people dancing around. Fugain is off to the side. He kind of looks like a hippie. You've gotta admit. These guys can dance pretty well. Sure, the tune verges on the silly, but that's all part of the fun.

So Long, Real Change!

They've been good neighbors, but it's time for Real Change to move along. What with the economic crisis and the surge in homeless and all, their longtime headquarters here at 2nd & Blanchard are getting a bit cramped. They're moving to Pioneer Square, which makes a lot of sense, because that's where most major homeless shelters and missions are. In all this time, I know that Real Change's heart is in the right place, but I'm not sure how effective they really are. I mean, there are people who have been selling the paper for 10 years. Isn't it only supposed to be an interim gig? Anyhow, they're still around for a while yet; their grand opening in Pioneer Square is May 24th. What will become of the space? Who knows, but I pray to gawd that it won't become a bar. A restaurant, OK, but please no bar. There are already two out-of-control bars on the block (the V-Bar, of course, and See Sound Lounge). We don't need to add to that number. But let's wish Real Change luck in their future new digs!

Monday, March 22, 2010

After Hours

Vera Brezhneva. Lyubov v bolshom gorodye (Love in the big city)

This is the first time I've featured Vera. Hey, that's my mom's name! But she is definitely not my mom. Anyhow, this is pretty non-trashy - and for that I apologize - but she seems to live in an apartment that hovers over the city. I thought that was slightly absurd. I know that lots of Russians have a New York fixation, but why can't any of these videos be set in Moscow. That town kicks ass. It's big, gloomy and wonderful. I've been to New York twice and I thought it was pretty OK. Yeah, there were lots of things to do, but I had way more fun in Moscow. But that was years ago when the mafia owned half the city and the Communists owned the other half. Maybe things are much more boring there, what with authoritarian government restored and whatnot. OK, so floating apartment, a nice little love story and an enjoyable tune. That's all this clip has to offer. That should be enough, right?

Over at the P-I

You may not know it but I'm a renaissance man. Not only do I blog for myself, but I also do it for the P-I. It pays a lot and it's really glamorous. Wait, stop! I actually meant the opposite of that! Anyhow, I wrote up a redux of the madness at the V-Bar last week. It's basically what I posted here with a special section of moralizing at the end. If you're interested, you can find it here, because posting here would just be overkill. Enjoy!

Sidewalk Sale!

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time (and there's not reason why you should), you'll know that last summer we had quite a few sidewalk sales out in front of the building. These all took place in July and August. Well, on Friday, I got a call from my manager, exhorting me to join the first sidewalk sale of the year. It was going to be, he explained, a beautiful day and people had gone long enough without buying other people's old stuff. How could I say no? If you'll also remember, I had an incredibly vast amount of stuff to sell: 78s, LPs, CDs, books, t-shirts and bad art. It was all very tough to get up/down the stairs. Well, for this sale, I only wanted to sell CDs, records and books. These would be the most portable items that I had. Just for good measure, I brought down a single piece of bad art. If people dug that, I could show them more. Here's what it all looked like:

My goal was modest; I wanted to make $5. We were going to have a barbecue later on and that would cover the cost of some bratwursts from Dan & Rey's. Well, it took some hours, but I ended up making around $40. How about that? In addition to making some cash and getting rid of some stuff, the sidewalk sale is also a good chance to get to know my neighbors AND to hang out of the sidewalk. These two little noisemakers live just upstairs:

They're great kids even though they're a bit on the loud side sometimes. It's fun to hang out with them. Oh, remember that I brought down a piece of bad art for the sale? Yeah, I sold that - five whole bucks, cash money. The kids decided that they liked it. It's this piece:

I call it The Castle of Erotic Misunderstandings, but don't tell the kids that. For them, it's The Red Castle. It currently lives directly upstairs.

We eventually had our cookout. I made enough money to buy beer to go along with the bratwursts. Everything was delicious. I was starving from moving all those milk crates of 78s up from the basement. You know something? I didn't sell a single one. Otherwise, it was a wonderful day. And we'll have plenty more sidewalk sales throughout the spring and summer. If there's even a vague semblance of organization, I'll announce them in advance.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Gosh, there's been a lot of Indian music at the Moore lately. Here are my only explanations for such a phenomenon:
1. What with the Internet and globalism and all that other stuff, we now have access to much of India's finer music;
2. American/British pop music totally blows;
3. Some combination of 1 & 2.
I pick #3. I don't know who this Krishna Das fellow is, but I'm guessing that if they've brought him all the way from India, he's probably pretty good. Of course, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was from far away and I didn't like him at all, so this pronouncement is no guarantee of quality.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Your Sunday Squirrel

Squirrel sightings have again been lean this week. I have no idea what's up with those rodents. I just hope that they're not all dead. This is a dip into the photo archives to a shot that I took last August. I didn't see this little guy after this picture, which means that he got another job and moved away. Yeah, that's what he did.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Who is this Jaime Cullum person and what does he want from us? Well, he's this British jazz guy who is building a pop appeal. Now, after having lived in England for a whole year, when I hear the word "British" and "jazz" in the same sentence, I usually flee in terror. British jazz really isn't tremendously good. But I'll give Cullum credit for his attempt to cross over. He's a good musician and a nice enough guy. And who can blame him for wanting to ditch jazz? It's a dry socket, sweet people. I love it more than most and that's what I think about. Hey, even I'm trying to make the transition. I just wrote a song about dancing with robots. Is it jazz? Hell no! Anyhow, it seems like this would be a pleasant concert. If I knew his music a little better, I might consider going, but alas...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Coming Soon to the Moore!

This is actually some kind of Bhangra competition. OK, so what does the winner get? Uncertain. But this should be a pretty fun evening if you're into Indian music. Pardon the short blurb; we're having an impromptu sidewalk sale and I have to get back to the "action." My sales goal for today is $5. I'm 80% there. If you're around 2nd & Blanchard and looking for a lava lamp with a burnt-out bulb, I can totally hook you up.

Friday, March 19, 2010

After Hours

Scott Hamilton. Cherokee

No, not the figure skater; this is the sax player. Before the Marsalises, Hamilton was regarded as jazz's standard bearer. This was back in the late seventies when the old guard was dying out left and right. Yeah, it didn't work out so good. I think it has something to do with looks, because his playing is really nice. It's just that Hamilton, along with other fine tenor sax players like Eric Alexander and Chris Potter, just don't look like saxophonists. I've always thought they looked more like accountants or cops. Hamilton might be the squarest-looking guy this side of the late Michael Brecker. Anyhow, so last Friday's version of "Cherokee" was by Count Basie and featured Eddie Davis tearing it up on tenor sax. This version is quite different. It's much smaller, quieter and more under control. It's really pleasant. I mean, Hamilton is a great player. But I'm voting Basie for this one. Davis' playing is wild and crazy. It's exactly what this tune needs. Incidentally, "Cherokee" is one of the few jazz standards written by an Englishman. Ray Noble was a British bandleader who penned this tune. Its words are really dumb, but jazz guys gravitate toward the chord changes. Plus, they try to play it at maximum speed. That's always fun to hear.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Ah, it's another "just-kill-me-now" event at the Moore. You know, in retrospect, one of the best things about being young is that nobody listens. And a good thing, too, because everybody says all kinds of stupid crap. If people listened, there's a good chance that they would actually remember the stupid crap you said. Fortunately, nobody does. For example, I think Brett East Ellis is feeling just a little embarrassed about Less Than Zero at this point. That crap is forever - at least until it goes out of print. So tonight, the Moore will be the forum for a "slam-like" event featuring young people. Who knows, they might all be phenomenally talented. My money's against that. It's probably more realistic to expect a lot of youth-angst in blank-verse form. Someday, a few of these performers may be good, but it'll probably take a whole lot of honing of the craft before that happens.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

After Hours

Ginette Ravel & Jean-Pierre Ferland. Les Immortelles

Here's something from 1962 Quebec. It's certainly sappy, but it's also just a tiny bit touching - just a couple of crazy kids singing a love song on a TV show. They actually do it quite well. When you consider how poorly today's popstars sing, this performance seems even better. It's a shame they don't have better material, but French Canada's better songwriters were probably occupied elsewhere when this tune was written.

McGuire Scaffold-Watch! Week: ???? + 48

Well, lookee there! That tree is taller than the Space Needle. Gosh, that sure deflates my civic pride. However, it's not taller than the McGuire, which as usual was source of bustling activity this week. Every time I've walked by, the dwarf army has been making all kinds of noise. What does this mean? Well, if past performance is any indication, then nothing. They've made noise for the last year and the scaffold is still there. You know, if they focused the efforts of the entire army on just one thing a day, I bet they would have been done months ago. Instead, various dwarfs grind this over here and scrape that over there. The pace of work slows to a crawl. Of course, I don't understand the nature of the work at all, but I don't need to. I'm a blogger, and as such, my job is to criticize without understanding. Hooray for blogging!

Security House Scaffold-Watch: Week 22

We're back to Needle-bombing, sweet people! I took this picture a few days ago when it was gloomy. It serves as a nice contrast to today, which is bright and sunshiny. Yes, the scaffold is still up and there were no signs of any life when I walked by. Those poor old people, spending their golden years covered over with plastic. There oughta be a law. Hey, I think maybe there is. Anyhow, nothing has changed; work continues and the scaffold ain't going anywhere.

All Better!

Well, the V-Bar's window has been healed. See? I talked to a few of my neighbors and read the item on the police blotter and I'm able to piece a few things together. OK, there was this drunk guy whom they refused to serve. He took exception to that and eventually broke their window. One employee actually went and got a gun from behind the bar and took a shot at him. I didn't see it, but she apparently (and allegedly) shot at him, not up in the air. It was just one shot from a 9mm, even though my upstairs neighbor swears it was two. And then she had somebody hide the gun for her. The cops not only found that gun, but they fished out another one as well. They ended up arresting drunk guy and Annie Oakley. OK, that's basically what went on, but it still doesn't explain the battle on the sidewalk. Who were all those people? I'm pretty sure one of them was drunk guy, but who was everybody else? I'll give the cops a call later today and find out what charges are being brought against the two they arrested. Well, that's all for now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

After Hours

Les Bel Canto. Mon petit doigt

When I saw these guys for the first time (last week), I thought, "Wow, what a terrible band!" Yeah, just about everything they do is bad. This tune doesn't change my mind about them. Thank God it's mercifully short. It could be much worse, though. They could repeat it another time. Enjoy.

Noodle War!

Notice anything different about the V-Bar?

Take a closer look:

That's a very large and broken window, my friend. I swear to God that this kind of stuff doesn't happen very often in Belltown - especially on a Tuesday evening - but last night there was a full-fledged dumbass street fight going on right across the way. Here's how I saw it: I was in bed sleeping, when the sounds of a loud argument woke me. Two guys were screaming at each other, liberally peppering their remarks with the n-word, and a woman with a super-annoying voice was apparently shouting at one or both of them. I couldn't tell what she was saying. Stuff like this usually defuses itself in minutes, if not seconds. The two shouting parties separate, head off in opposite directions and tell their buddies just how much they're gonna mess that other guy up if they should ever cross paths again. That didn't happen. It got louder and more aggressive. At this point, I'm still in bed. I can't tell where this conflict is coming from. The acoustics on this part of 2nd are weird. Sometimes stuff happening right under my window sounds far away and things down the block sound like they're happening inside my apartment. This yelling match actually sounded like it was happening down the block. It wouldn't have mattered at all if there hadn't been this leap in volume, even more n-bombs falling, then these two huge crashing sounds. I got up and looked across the street. The V-Bar's window was broken just like you see above (only glass was everywhere) and a bunch of guys were scuffling on the sidewalk. You couldn't really call it a fight. It was just some guys (all of whom appeared to be Asian; so why employ the n-word, dudes?) running in, throwing a punch or two, missing, retreating, then repeating the process again. The action flowed along about a hundred feet of sidewalk. I couldn't tell whose side was doing what or who the good guys were. At the same time, people were fleeing the V-Bar. One woman jumped in her car, made a U-turn and began driving into oncoming traffic. All the while, these guys were trying unsuccessfully to brawl. It was mesmerizing, and it lasted many minutes. I knew the cops would eventually show up. I could see a guy from Under the Needle calling them. But these dumbasses were committed to fighting. I think that in all that time, I saw only one punch land. Every other one missed its mark. Grappling was minimal, since everyone was all about throwing their punches and running away. Just as the action seemed to fizzle, somebody fired a gun. I couldn't see who it was because of the stupid tree in front of my window, so I don't know whether they were firing at somebody or not. All I know is that it really was a gun and nobody was hit. The cops eventually showed up and calmed things down. It took them about ten minutes to get there. I expected them to be in full nightstick-swinging mode, but no such luck. They initially did a lot of yelling and things quieted remarkably quickly. I don't know if anyone was arrested. The woman with the super-annoying voice from the beginning of the festivities spent a long time shouting at somebody. Everybody eventually hit the road. That left the job of cleaning up the glass to the V-Bar staff. It was really loud. It took me more than an hour to get back to sleep.

I'm pretty sure that this wasn't gang-related. These guys fought too poorly and had no intention of getting away before the cops arrived. But it was a strange sight. I've seen lots of fights before; they usually involve just two guys (girlfights are very rare) who, instead of going toe-to-toe, immediately clinch and fall to the sidewalk, roll around for a bit until both are filthy and exhausted. This action was a completely different animal. I've never seen as many guys involved before. If there were a few more on each side, it would have been a total street riot. I haven't been able to find out anything about this incident from the local rags, so I'll give the cops a call and update when I find out something new. Till then, welcome to Belltown, home of the Battle of V-Bar, first (and hopefully last) action of the Noodle War.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

After Hours

France Gall. Nous ne sommes pas des anges

It's been too long since I've featured tiny, terrible-singing France. This tune is by Serge Gainsbourg and it's rather uncharacteristic in that it's really quite stupid. It didn't matter; it was a hit anyway. There are about five different versions on the YouTube, and this one's the best. It takes a while for things to happen. First, she has to explain how in those crazy modern times, women are wearing pants and men have long hair. This song was released in 1965, so at that time, those were things of note, but they pass by without a second glance in our dystopian age. Just for yucks, I thought I'd include another version for your amusement. It's from French-Canadian television. The year is 1969. She's singing at an oil refinery or a chemical plant or some such. I apologize for the sound quality, but that really doesn't affect the hilarity factor. Here goes:

A Message from Ballard

This just in...

Tell the children. Tell them all.

More Blooming Happenings!

News flash! The cherry trees around the old Frederick Cadillac lot on 5th & 6th, between Battery & Bell are all in bloom. Observe:

What's so special about this, besides the unarguable fact that blossoms are pretty? Well, these blooms are also fragrant. Fragrant! They smell better than everything in Belltown - except maybe the savory perfume that wafts out of the kitchen at Mama's. Otherwise, it is the best thing you could possibly smell in Belltown. Hurry over there and take a whiff. As you know, the shelf life of blossoms is limited. Do it soon. This is what they look like up close:

Remember, it's still winter. This early bloomage is like a Christmas miracle, minus family strife and Andy Williams.

Monday, March 15, 2010

After Hours

Gergana. Moje bi tochno ti (Maybe it's exactly you)

For this post, let's take a short detour away from Russia and Ukraine and head down to Bulgaria. Hey, they use the Cyrillic alphabet down there, so they're the real deal, but they've got crazy verbs. Even if you don't know a word of it, you can tell that it sounds completely different from Russian. Me, I can only understand it if people speak very slowly and draw pictures as they go. But it's a pleasant little language; easy on the ears and so forth. OK, so we have pop star Gergana with this effort. She and her rapper friend are trying very hard for that American "street-glam" look. Me, whenever I see foreigners attempting this, all I can think of is that it's merely imitation without context. There might as well be a bunch of monkeys doing the same thing. The first part isn't so bad; the tune is actually a bit intriguing, but once the guy (who looks quite a bit like Kevin Federline, no?) starts rapping, that's when it starts to get silly. Not only does he do those big hand/arm gestures, but his rap itself is peppered with English words. I have no idea what he's saying (not slow, no pictures), but is that really important? It's slightly disappointing that it's not nearly as trashy as Russian videos, but trashiness costs. And even if you're big in Bulgaria, you're not that big.

My Nutty Neighbors

You may have noticed when you're walking up or down the west side of 2nd Ave. between Blanchard and Lenora people laying on the sidewalk or wandering aimlessly around or carrying on conversations with no one - almost all of them are smoking. You may assume that this is a gathering point for Belltown's homeless, but you'd be assuming wrong. Most of them are my neighbors. I've lived in the Rivoli for 20 years, and for all that time, the El Rey and its tenants have been next door. Since its renovation in 1988, it has housed people with some pretty severe mental issues. Most would generically regard them as crazy. This makes life interesting at times for many of us at the neighboring Rivoli.

First off, those living next door are like all people: some are sweethearts, others are jerks, but most are somewhere in between. Based on my experience, there is nothing ennobling about being mentally ill. I know that there are tons of movies out there about brilliant crazy people prevailing over their demons even for a brief moment and achieving great things, but I have yet to see someone from the El Rey whip out a violin and dash off Bach's Partita in B Minor or elucidate about a practical way to travel faster than light speed. Apart from being crazy, everyone seems quite ordinary. For 22 years, the El Rey staff has taken care of them, and they've done a stellar job. Most of their residents have no other place to go. For them, it's either the El Rey or the streets. Some of them have actually come from the streets. And that shows in much of their behavior, which verges on the pathological.

Everybody at the El Rey has their quirks; there's the woman who calls me "Paul." There's no persuading her otherwise. She says I look like a Paul. There's the guy who is always inviting me to his family's mansion on top of Queen Anne Hill. There's no mansion; he's a delusional schizophrenic. There's also the guy who will tell me about how God is trying to kill us all. Many, however, are not social at all. There's one fellow living there whom I've never heard speak. He's been a resident for around 15 years. I guess that's his particular quirk. All residents are harmless, non-violent and substance-free, but there are a few that do bring down the quality of life on this block, such as it is. There are a few that are tireless, relentless panhandlers. No matter how many times you walk by, you get hit up. One day a few years ago, I had lots of stuff to do and I must have walked by this one woman a dozen times. Every time, she asked for change. In the following months, the story was the same. Every single time I walked by I'd get asked. She never recognized me as a neighbor or as somebody who never gave her anything. I finally asked her to stop, as I was her neighbor and wasn't going to give her any change. She still asks to this day. Her persistence is fairly incredible and she sometimes ends up making money. What does she spend it on? Twinkies and lotto tickets. All those hours panhandling for those two things. God help us if she ever wins the lottery. There are others who patrol the garbage cans; some rifle through them occasionally, others hourly. This and the panhandling are what bring down the quality of the block; this is the same block that contains the Real Change offices. I've said it before many times: Real Change is a good neighbor. The vendors are very seldom a problem. My only gripe with the El Rey people is that they have a home, medication, care and support, but some can't shake behaving like they're homeless. Those are just the things they do. And there's nothing the El Rey staff can do about it.

Considering the issues that they have to deal with, the El Rey does a great job. Sure, their residents freak out and have psychotic breakdowns sometimes, but overall, they're kept relatively comfortable, safe, and most importantly, medicated. I would much rather have the mentally ill cared for in a place like the El Rey than having them wandering around. But there are some days when seemingly every single person walking the street is nuts, and when you walk past the El Rey, they're the nuttiest of all. So the next time you're in this part of Belltown, just know that these people, regardless of how they appear, have an entire staff that looks after them and that life for them is as good as it can get under the circumstances.

Just a note: this is my thousandth post. I honestly didn't think I'd get past a dozen. Believe me, I'm not that dedicated to any one thing. When I figure out how I stuck with this silly blog so long, I'll let you know.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Your Sunday Squirrel

Squirrel sightings have been very minimal this week. I think I've seen maybe one. And that's all. I always get a little concerned. Yes, I know that they're wild animals and they can take care of themselves, but they always seem so preoccupied with being squirrels that they pay no attention to other things going on - like traffic and aggressive dogs and crows. Well, today I saw a bunch of them including this little guy in the photo. There were at least five of them, all looking quite healthy and acting very squirrel-like. So yes, squirrels are alive and well in living in Denny Park.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

After Hours: Ska-turday Edition!

The Specials. Monkey Man

Yeah, I'm running out of material fast. I've still got a few weeks left till I'm posting stuff by the friggin' Selector. Pardon the fact that this clip starts about 15 seconds into the tune. It's still pretty good. They're not as hyper-kinetic as they are when they play in front of a live crowd. They're also less sloppy. I remember seeing them on SNL decades ago. They looked great, but their performance made no sense. It was just a bunch of guys I couldn't understand dancing around with Tommy guns. The stage was small and there were a lot of them. It was chaos. Oh hey, I found it! God bless the YouTube! Have a look. They're playing "Gangsters:"

The host for that show appears to be Strother Martin. So yeah, even 30 years later they look pretty weird. These days, they just look old.

Did You Know About This?

I was just taking my Netflix DVDs to the post office when I ran smack into the St Patrick's Parade. Even though it's a downtown affair, it's worth mentioning. Now, I'm zero percent Irish, so the whole shebang usually passes by unnoticed. But a parade is tough to ignore. Of course, nothing says "Irish" like the Seafair pirates. Here they are:

They also had their cannon along. It wasn't that glorified shotgun they sometimes use. No, this was the full-on, black-powder muzzle-loader. And it was really super-loud. This is what it looked like about two seconds after they fired it:

There were also friends of Oliver Cromwell:

I'm guessing that there isn't a whole lot of animosity between the orange and the green in this part of the world. I mean, we're not in Boston! Those tensions and bad history don't count for much in Seattle, so let the Ulster folks march.

This was about the most boring thing in the parade - or at least as much as I saw of it. It consisted of little more than a banner and a stroller:

OK, then...

The highlight for me was one of the strangest bands I've ever seen. It was a drum and accordion corps, but they also had cheerleaders. It was all very nice:

And then I left. It would be nice if they made such a big deal out of SS Cyril and Methodius Day, but I won't hold my breath. They chased no snakes anywhere. Instead, they gave their Slavic brethren the Glagolitic alphabet. It was so popular that Slavs who wished for a less cumbersome (Glagolitic is mind-bendingly elaborate) way to communicate immediately went out, stole a bunch of Greek, Latin and Hebrew letters and dubbed it the Cyrillic alphabet. Slavs around the world honor the two to this day for giving them the wrong alphabet. This year, the great day falls on July 5th. Mark your calendars. Anyhow, happy St. Patrick's Parade Day, everybody! "Kiss me, I'm Irish" has a much better ring to it than "Punch me, I'm Ukrainian."