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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Say a Prayer for Hymie Weiss

I grew up on the south side of Chicago. As a kid I attended classes at the Chicago Art Institute. I also watched a line of policemen protected the first brave families to integrate the beach near our house. The good and the bad of Chicago is a part of my life story. 

When I was about eight, my father joined a plein-air painting group that visited several locations in Chicago's Loop. His paintings are embedded in my memory.

One of my favorites he called "Say a Prayer for Hymie Weiss".  It was Holy Name Cathedral on the corner of State and Superior near Chicago's water tower.  Hymie, an Irish Catholic who became a mob boss and leader of the North Side gang during Prohibition was Al Capone's bitter rival--"..the only man Al Capon feared." (wikipedia). 

On October 11, 1926 Capone's hit men shot Hymie and his buddies on the street. Legend has it that some bullets nicked the cornerstone of Holy Name Cathedral. 

Walking in my dad's footsteps, I found another spot that was the subject matter in his plein-air group -The Chicago Art Institute. My family still has the paining of this same scene done in oils by my dad.

The Ghery Amphitheater was built after my father's time, but it is definitely another Chicago landmark. We were treated to a balmy summer evening concert of Cole Porter tunes pouring forth from the sculpted metal amphitheater. Lit up with pink, blue and purple lights it was like stationary, melodic fireworks.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Columbia City Theater

Built in 1917 this little space, the Columbia City Theater on Rainier Avenue in Seattle, started as a vaudeville theater then hosted top jazz musicians Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Ella Fitzgerald in the 40's. 

Later, in the 50's, it was local movie theater where, on Saturday morning, Flash Gordon and the Our Gang series entertained the neighborhood youth. 

Jimi Hendrix played there in the 60's and in the 80's it hosted the punk scene. 

Somewhere in there it closed and reopened in 2010, to become, again, a popular neighborhood landmark and one that always catches my eye when I'm in the neighborhood.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rainbows and candles shine a light on our grief

I heard about the vigil on my way home from Seattle on Sunday - 7:00 pm in Sylvester Park, the closest thing we have to a town square in Olympia.

I arrived mid-way through, just as the sun was casting it's glow to the treetops. Like Melanie Reim, I felt a little intrusive, standing with my sketchbook. We listened solemnly as speakers vented. I sensed we were all processing the horror of the day's events in Orlando.


Emotions ran high across the gamut - anger, blame fear, empathy, love...  Rainbow flags furled and unfurled with the light breeze.

Candles flickered, but persisted. A minister sang a song, "How could anyone ever tell you, you are anything less than beautiful..."

We wept inside, grieving the Orlando victims, and grateful for community. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mother's Day Part 2-Emerald Downs

The track seemed to me a bit odd as a place to spend Mothers' Day, but my ninety-seven year old mom seemed excited to go, as much from nostalgia as anything else. She and my dad used to go to the tracks occasionally and it was, after all the day after the Kentucky Derby. It turned out not an odd choice at all for the thousands who showed up. 

Emerald Downs opened just twenty years ago in June of 1996. It's predecessor, Longacres, had been the longest continually operated track on the west coast. The Muckelshoot Indian tribe bought the land , then the building and facilities in 2015. 


The Kentucky Derby had been the day before anomy brother thought "Hangover Day" would be relatively empty. Wrong. It's one of the most popular days of the year, and despite the weather being cool and cloudy, moms were in abundance.

The picnic tables near the paddock and right next to the track are a fun way for families to enjoy the horses and save a little cash for betting. 

I got a chance to chat with Dan Harrington, the track bugler, a classy dude dressed in navy blue tails, black leather riding boots and top hat. When asked how he came by his position, "Well, I'm just a  trumpeter." His 15 year pin hinted of a different story. 

Winnings of the day: $1.60 (minus my entry fee), but way ahead with a fun experience. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

King Street Station Departures

For our sketch outing this May Urban Sketchers Seattle met at King Street Station. After so many nice days earlier in the month, this particular one rose wet and cool. Topping that off I couldn't talk, the result of a bad cold. So, even though the skies hadn't opened up yet that day, I stayed inside the station, thinking I would take a stab at the beautiful classic interior, but the morning train was getting ready to depart and people starting lining up.

It was all too compelling. I just like drawing people. We make such interesting shapes. 

Mother's Day Part 1

I had stopped at Wright Park in Tacoma on one of our unseasonably warm and sunny Sundays we had during April this year. I chose the park because of the classic WW Seymour Botanical Conservatory built in 1907. I wanted to contribute to Sketch Out/Loud, a month-long celebration of landscape architecture organized by Urban Sketcher and New York landscape designer, Richard Alomar to promote on location sketching as a way to observe and document the landscape. 

While I was researching the conservatory I learned that they hold concerts on the second Sunday of every month. So....

Mother's Day happened to be the second Sunday of May. On the way to meet my own mom we stopped at the conservatory and listened to a lovely concert by Gina Belliveau, an acoustic singer/songwriter. 

 We got to sit about 3 feet away from her as she serenaded us. 

Surfers' Paradise

Sayulita used to be a sleepy fishing village just nothing of Puerto Vallarta in Nayarit, Mexico, until a surfing journal published an article about its consistent curls. Twenty years later it is a surfer's Mecca, the Malibu of Mexico and a great place for a family vacation.

Our "board" son, so named for his attraction to boards of all kinds- skate boards, snowboards and surfboards, led the enthusiasm for this destination. We concurred and headed south in early February.

The beach is, of course the main attraction. Thick with sun reloads especially on weekends. Loads of foreigners slather on the sunscreen and happily support the many local, but not pushy, vendors. Doughnuts, silver jewelry, beach blankets are among the many local s lectins you can make. Don't want to buy anything? A simple "No gracias" usually does it he trick.

This beachfront surf shop is owned by Patricia, a northwest native hailing from Portland, OR..She and her family have been coming for most of the year for over 20 years. Her son is now on the international surfing championship tour.

Papaya/strawberry smoothies, wood-inlay surfboards, aqua water dive excursions, hand-woven Aztec designed textiles, locally grown coffee, vegan bowls with a fried grasshopper option--you can find pretty much anything you might want in one of the closely-packed shops or stree-vendor tables.

The houses stack the hillside sin an uneven checkerboard of gold, blue and pink.

Turreted tombstones laden with plastic flowers and touching epithets populate the local cemetery that leads, appropriately, to Playa de los Muertos - "beach of the dead". Ironically as a swimming beach, it surpasses Sayulits's beach.

Don Eduardo's Palapa, a grass-roofed structure perches on the hilltop above both beaches giving a spectacularly expansive view- perfect for the morning yoga class I attended.

A word of warning to us tender bellies from the States: take your time easing into the local cuisine. Or as my son put it #donteatthefishtacos.