What We've Been Up To -- June 2009

Enjoying the last of Seattle

This summer finds us living downtown, at the Harbor Steps. There's no yard work, plenty to look at, and you can get to several restaurants, a cute little grocery store or the new Fran's Chocolates without even crossing the street. Sunset over Elliot Bay.

What happenened, of course, is that we sold our house on Queen Anne Hill. For years now we've been planning that event for no later than September of this year, so that Alex could retire without hesitation, leaving us free to move to our house in Mexico. Late winter was the right time to put the place on the market though, according to our favorite realtor, Jeff Valcik. Buyers found us immediately -- Dan and Kirsten Leng, whom we were happy to see take over the space we have enjoyed for twenty years. Dan is a photographer (you can see some of his pictures from Thailand here) and was glad to find a spacious darkroom waiting for him in the basement.

So we were facing homelessness sooner than expected; but fortunately Alex had begun researching possible billets last year. We started looking at apartments at the south end of Lake Union and proceeded through Belltown, but we weren't really excited until arriving here, on First Avenue, just north of the Seneca Street off-ramp.

Our little apartment couldn't fit us much better than it does. There's a narrow space billed as a "den" that houses a computer, some file boxes, and a bunch of other stuff from our "old" life still awaiting disposition -- including thousands of slides and negatives that I'm busy scanning, in part to make them more portable but also to make them easier to share with old college buddies. There's a balcony that's home to the bicycles (commuting by bike or bus is much easier than before -- we've sold our remaining car and are getting along just fine without). The balcony also provides us with an excellent view of our "neighbors," including two or three Washington State car ferries, the Vashon passenger ferry, Argosy tour boats in various sizes, the West Seattle water taxi, one or two Seattle fire boats, plus, up the waterfront a bit, the Victoria Clipper and frequent cruise ships, and freighters from all over the world at the container facilities just to the south. There's nearly always something to look at -- although on one day the fog was so thick it completely obscured the building next door for a while.

Sunset over Elliot Bay. Our "back" door is on Western Avenue at the bottom of the Steps, just to the right of the green sign in the picture of the street. We often enter here, through the parking garage, especially with the bicycles, since the First Avenue lobby is five floors higher.

We still visit some of our old haunts. It's as easy to get to the Fremont PCC by bus as it used to be by foot, and a trip to Chocolopolis may include a stop at the Metropolitan Market on Queen Anne. But the IGA downtown on Third , in the basement of the old Kress building, offers a surprising selection of organic produce, hard-to-find necessities, and even a line of gluten-free baked goods from Haley's Corner that I haven't seen anywhere else. We miss seeing our old friends at Video Isle, but our "new" video store, Pioneer Square Video, offers a two-movies-at-a-time Netflix-like plan -- except that it's possible to make several exchanges a day in person. Or, for the truly lazy, through our concierge.

Our interior courtyard at night. The picture at left is of the courtyard that separates, or connects, our building with the next. Each of them has a multi-purpose room that opens onto this space. On our side there are also an exercise room, resistance pool and sport court; across the way and over to the left you can see the skylight roof of the lap pool. Between and at a lower level is the line of Post Alley -- surely legally vacated here, but still providing tourists a path from the Pike Place Market toward Pioneer Square.

Living downtown is an obvious choice now, but in the mid-90s there were many who said that the idea would never sell. It was given life by the late Stimson Bullitt, a man with important accomplishments in several other fields as well. Alex and I used to see him down at our gym -- Vertical World -- where he was climbing stuff about as hard as we were, despite an age "advantage" of nearly half.

So that's the story of why we live where we do. In October we'll have another story -- you can read more about our house at Loreto Bay here -- but in the meantime there's plenty to do in Seattle. Below is a panoramic photo of Elliott Bay on the day of the annual tugboat race. We're the start line! There's one of the fireboats spouting off. By the way, all of these pictures are much larger than they look, and you can fill your screen by opening any of them separately in your browser.