Our Summer in Belltown

If anything tops living in Loreto , that would be not having to spend the summer there. We had such a fine time last year in Eugene that afterwards we quickly set about looking for another warm-weather posting. Alex's old colleagues at the Seattle VA, when they heard that she was looking at a job in Portland, found money in their budget to bring her back for a three-month return engagement this year.

The courtyard connecting our buildings The temp agency, perhaps considering proximity to work, offered us one place on Capitol Hill and another in Georgetown; but though it meant paying much of the rent ourselves we wanted to be downtown and close to the bike route, and thus we arrived at the very western corner of Belltown, at the Olympus apartments.

It appeared briefly that we might be able to return to the Harbor Steps. There isn't the sense we had there of being close to everything, but those destinations reached by bus or bike are just about as convenient as before, and there are some nice surprises nearby. The Romio's Pizza in our block is one that offers gluten-free items, and the Old Spaghetti Factory does too. The new Lucky Diner, just up the hill, at least talks a good game and the cozy Barracuda Taqueria is largely corn-based anyway. With a lot of young tech and bio-tech workers around, sustainablility is a common theme, and our neighborhood is kept looking nice for the tourists wandering up from the waterfront or motoring by in refurbished WWII landing craft.

This is not the Belltown that I remember from Second Avenue in the early Eighties, a sparse constellation of print shops, surplus stores, labor halls, and the taverns that provided the only illumination after dark. In those days the Union Oil Company still had an office here, at what had been a transfer and distribution facility -- and would eventually be the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park. Extensive improvements to Vine Street. Other nearby examples of civic betterment include the Cistern Steps climbing Vine Street and the associated "P-Patch" seen at right, only a couple blocks south of us. That's the local term for a gardening allotment by the way, and I had always assumed that it was short for "public" or something, but the phrase evidentally comes from the name of the family whose land was first put to that use, according to this Wikipedia article, which contains a complete list of P-Patch locations. Our landscape is still a mix of old and new. Note the two little cottages surviving in the midst of traffic to and from Highway 99.

New here also are the bicycle facilities, probably inspired by controversial mayor Mike McGinn.

The view from our own window also takes in both old and new. The now truly venerable Old Spaghetti Factory anchors the scene, but it's framed by the Real Networks headquarters and the new park. Some art may be glimpsed at the far right of the panorama seen below. Beyond the water lies the Olympic Penninsula, and the whole sweep of its mountains is visible on a clear day. Any of these pictures may be enlarged by clicking, by the way.

Pier 70, across the street, the old Ainsworth and Dunn pier, built in 1902, for decades saw sailing ships and steamers from all over the world, but now is more likely to welcome diners at its upscale restaurant. The pier to the south is home to the Victoria Clipper.

A view across Elliott Avenue

There is a pair of crows that we see often because they nested atop the Spaghetti Factory this year. They have a pretty easy life, though they do have to put some effort into defending their home from gulls. In the panorama you can glimpse one of them flying past. Another pair dominates the courtyard between our buildings, scolding everyone who appears. They will take time out to accept food however. I have caught sight of one of their offspring; maybe they will be friendlier after their children are old enough to take care of themselves.

Ever since we left our old life on Queen Anne Hill, all the places where we've stayed have been close to the water. Here, north of Bell Street anyway, that means being close to the railroad tracks as well. There's a variety of traffic -- the Sounder that runs between Everett and Tacoma, the transcontinental Amtrack sleepers, and what is now the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The BNSF will occasionally show off an airplane fuselage on its way to Boeing; more frequent are the endless chains of coal cars heading north. The noise that these trains make ranges from merely cacaphonic to cataclysmic, but is always acompanied by the clanging of two separate crossing gates, well designed to command attention. Our building is thoroughly soundproofed, and closing a window or two permits watching the TV or sleeping, but warmer weather may keep the windows open longer. When work began on the park, the waterfront streetcar lost its garage and became a bus, so it causes less noise and also serves a larger area. On the whole it's gratifying to see so much rail and public transportation in a place where they seemed to be threatened.

There Will Be . . . Blackberries
There Will Be . . . Blackberries. There will be lots of them. And not the marionberry of commerce, nor the tiny, solid, tart, rare trailing native blackberries, prized by purists, but the lavish, inky, syrupy Himalayan blackberry, that noxious weed you're fined to harbor, invasive to say the least, those horrid, inexorable vines that beckon and threaten at the same time, those miniature juice grenades that, once they've lost their gloss, yield to the gentlest caress, offering, plausibly, to feed us all, every one of us, regardless of our species, until September, when the berries will become harder to find, the job will vanish, and the apartment and the rental car as well, and it will be time for us to leave. Too soon for Loreto though -- so we're off to Spain for a month. Check back in the fall.

Here are some links to the other parts of our lives: