Thursday, January 15, 2009

ah, progress

As usual, my ballard has some good coverage of the ongoing Denny's saga. Check out the pictures of the proposed 'iconic' development if you want to laugh your ass off. It looks like a cross between a retirement home on the Oregon coast and an outlet mall.


I have really won out this year. From the windows of my house I can now see three townhouse developments and one mini condo. I think some reviews are in order. First of all, the development across the street, which has clearly been designed with the spirit of new Ballard in mind. In keeping with neighborhood trends, the developers have thoughtfully included an additional structure for each one visible from the street. The front houses face a major thoroughfare and the houses behind them must have a nice view as well.

We can be thankful for the tasteful palette. Each three-story townhouse is a slightly different hue from the next, ranging from an attractive sand at one end of the development to a demure sage at the other. The sand to sage gradient is indicative of the developer's depth of thought. We also see diversity in the choice of trim. One set is trimmed in off-beige (I can think of no other word to describe this color, which hints at baby shit green but settles for subtle), the other in off-white, and two in shades of creme, which contrasts nicely with the plastic white-framed windows.

The look is finished with slate-colored roofing and, for a nice soul-crushingly northwestern touch, small shingled balconies.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I spotted Edith Macefield's house the other day and reminded myself to write a post about a true Ballard hero. I didn't get around to it, and now she's dead.
Her brand of defiance and spirit gives the rest of us something to live for.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I have mixed feelings about Theodore Roosevelt, but I thought this quote from the man nicely summarized my recent trains of thought: "There is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty."
I suppose old Teddy wasn't talking about a bowling alley, though.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Keep Seattle Interesting?

Music: Party Shuffle
Bessie Smith- Give Me a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer
Steve Earl-Here I am
Story of My Life-Social Distortion
Drivin' Nails in My Coffin-Supersuckers

Okay, I return to the forum feeling somewhat rejuvenated. I was seriously considering giving up on this blog--Reading other people's reactionary vitriol in the comments section on My Ballard made me wonder if being an Internet reactionary was really a worthy pursuit. I was wondering if I wanted to stand up to the onslaught that my rants might eventually invite. I was wondering if I could or should bother to craft arguments that might be based more on nostalgia than anything else.
But you know what? That's bullshit. Yeah, change is eternal, and some of it is good. Creative jobs are good, urban density is important, and a small yuppie bistro or a PR firm that has the taste to keep an old neon sign is infinitely better than a box store. But that doesn't mean that we should welcome all development with open arms. As OCD OD so eloquently stated, it's not so much a matter of keeping Seattle seedy as keeping Seattle interesting. As much as I love pull tabs, jukeboxes, pawn shops, glowing liquor bottles, and drunken camaraderie, below the layers of filth and shag carpeting what really distinguishes a good dive is that it is interesting---as any night at the secret bar will attest, unexpected things happen more frequently in conducive environments.

What do I mean conducive? Places that have imagination, a sense of humor, and the intellectual and emotional capacity to review things on a case-by-case basis. Places that are at least marginally concerned with community--whether that means a bunch of drunks who look out for each other or more constructive types. A plant nursery could just as easily fit that profile as, say, a bar or a bowling alley.
I like nice restaurants and sometimes I like to look at things in stores, but I sometimes worry that we are losing our diversity--becoming too slick, too polished, too generic. I worry that we are creating spaces that are going to draw, for financial and aesthetic reasons, a rather homogeneous crowd. And no, I don't have anything against people with money who eat at nice restaurants--I just think it would be sad if we lost all the scruffy little places and utilitarian family businesses that make cities interesting to live in. Based on empirical evidence, we're not making provisions for these businesses in our current development plans.
Yeah, some of my arguments are nostalgic or based on arbitrary aesthetics, but is that so much worse than blindly making prosperity your end goal?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

douchebags will win in the end, anyway

It looks like I opened up a can of worms with my comment. These people seem quite vitriolic. It kinda makes me wonder what I am doing writing this blog. Do I have a logical defense against progress? Can one really argue for character and authenticity? My best arguments are details---a buzzing neon beer sign in the rain, treasures in a junkyard, blackberry vines snaking from garage doors, the delight one feels, in stores or bars, at the discovery of random and unexpected things. But that's all ephemera, isn't it?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two things...

1. Denny's is doomed.

2. This made me think of my favorite tavern in Olympia, The Brotherhood. All of my four readers have heard me drunkenly wax nostalgic about The Brotherhood in person (and two of you remember the bar itself), so I'll keep this short.
The Brotherhood was a beautiful place. The bar was carpeted in diverse shag remnants; there were nicotine-stained posters of naked ladies sitting on hay bales and other great art, including a giant bottle neck mounted on the wall like a taxedermied animal head. The Brotherhood had all the elements of a great dive: it was mostly populated by sad old men, it smelled horrible, the bartender had seen better days, the jukebox was heavy on the Hank Williams Jr. side of things, and you could win cases of Niblets canned corn by playing pull tabs. (To prove The Brotherhood's greatness, I will iterate that I have never found another dive that meets that last qualification.) For athletic types, there was also shuffleboard and free pool on an abomination of a table.
To make a long story short, The Brotherhood became inundated with college kids and hipsters. I still loved it, but it became so popular that the owners sold it. The new owners transformed the place. They knocked out the low asbestos ceilings, painted the walls deep red, and hung up kitschy velvet paintings and other ironic trappings.
There is nothing wrong with the bar that stands in The Brotherhood's place. It's a nice enough place to drink, and they even hired Buck, one of the original bar's bartenders. Buck is fine with the transformation because he makes better tips. But in my estimation, the place has no real glory. And it bothers me, personally, that they left the sign up. The bar that stands there isn't The Brotherhood, and shouldn't be called The Brotherhood. I don't see why anyone would find that sort of gesture a comfort.