24 June 2006

I Spy the Space Needle...

Volunteer Park
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Saturday was a day dedicated to exploring the Capitol Hill neighborhood. I had intended to start at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, but was sidetracked by St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. The exterior, in part, looked like an old, concrete warehouse. The interior was simply immense. When the cathedral was originally drafted, it was to be much more elegant and ornate than it is today, but the depression that started in 1929 tempered those plans.

Volunteer Park is home to the Asian Art Museum, as well as the site of the old water tower which serves as a unique 360° panoramic viewpoint of the area. If you’re out of shape like I am, your knees will tremble and your face will flush, but the climb to the top is utterly worth the exertion. Your gaze will travel from the boaters on Lake Washington to the Space Needle and downtown high rises to the majestic slopes of Mount Rainier. As one climber announced to his companion when they reached the top, “Oh, the mountain is out!” And when it is, you will have spectacular views.

After walking through the exhibits at the museum, I continued my exploration of the neighborhood. Broadway is one of the main thoroughfares for shopping and eating – and entertaining people watching. I highly recommend a stop at Piroshky, a tiny shop that serves delicious combinations of savory stuffings in handmade rolls. Madison Street and 15th Avenue are also two more areas with eateries and boutiques to peruse.

The real highlight of the neighborhood, though, is a drive along Lake Washington Boulevard. Driving south will give you unparalleled views of Mount Rainier, and a drive north will provide easy access to the many parking turnouts. You can pick a spot and plant yourself with a good book, or watch the many boaters and swimmers enjoying the water.

How to keep occupied on Capitol Hill:

St. Mark’s Cathedral
Volunteer Park
Seattle Asian Art Museum
Empty Space Uncommon Theatre
Japanese Garden
Capitol Hill Neighbors

23 June 2006

Urban Dispatch from Capitol Hill

lee ctr
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Earlier this week, I thought to myself,“If I went to Seattle this weekend, what would I do?” A quick internet search reveals a one-woman show opening at the Lee Center for the Arts on the Seattle University campus. Mmm. A few clicks later and I’m checking out the current exhibits at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. And guess what? Bellevue is holding their annual Strawberry Festival this weekend. That’s all it takes, and I’m off to my neighbor to the north.

So tonight I find myself in the Capitol Hill area in search of the arts center. The format and the content of the play intrigue me on a couple of levels. It’s a semi-autobiographical work by Lauren Weedman about her experiences working as a volunteer case manager with the woman at the L.A. Twin Towers Correctional Facility. I’ve written and performed monologues before, and I wanted to see how an entire show could be carried by just one person.

The theatre is a traditional black-box style, with seating for 150 people. As soon as I see it, it takes me back to another impromptu theatre experience four years ago. My friend, Szejn, and I had traversed our respective countries (me from Utah, and he from Calgary) to meet in Montreal. It was a sorely needed 4-day break for me, a time to decompress after several months of high demands and stress at work.

One night, we decided to attend a local production we had seen advertised in a local paper. I cannot remember the title or any of it predominant themes. What I do remember is a long, raised platform consuming the length of the performance area -- actors running full pace from one end down to the other, circling back to the starting point behind the curtains, and reappearing in a continuous loop of scurrying fanatics. I don’t think there was nary a word of English in the entire play, but a fare amount of French, some Russian, and another mysterious tongue. It’s an odd memory, but one I’m happy to share with my friend.

Lauren brought tremendous energy and skill for characterization to her performance tonight. For one hour and forty minutes she portrayed a slice of her life in all of its humorous, muddled, and honest combinations. Her work as a volunteer resonates with me because of similar experiences I’ve had working with incarcerated populations. You don’t forget the nuances of the first time you enter a maximum security facility. Her work as a writer resonates because it reflects life.

17 June 2006

A Trip to Bellfountain

Bellfountain cemetery
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
After many far-flung road trips in recent weeks, I wanted somewhere relatively close to explore today. In a cubbyhole of my mind was a faded memory about Bellfountain, Oregon, and a family reunion held there over two decades ago. I remember my Dad rolling out a long sheet of colored butcher paper on the park picnic tables which traced the various family lines, and inviting everyone there to add to or clarify their information. I remember the requisite family photograph and a ball game with cousins I didn’t really know very well. So with Father’s Day this weekend, it seems apropos to pay tribute to a bit of family history.

Four miles off Highway 99 W in the corner of Benton County is the intersection that forms the hub of Bellfountain. The hill on the northeast corner proudly displays a well-kept community church. To the southeast is the Bellfountain Cornerstone Christian School, already at recess for the summer. On the southwest corner sits an abandoned, dilapidated storefront and two weed-encrusted gas pumps. Painted in script on the front of the pay station are the words, “Gone Fishing.” One gets the impression that this is a permanent fishing trip. To the west is the town park, the location of that family reunion so many years ago.

When I returned to Salem, I called my Dad to see how we were related to the names on the grave markers I had photographed. I should have called him prior to my trip. I didn’t realize that so much of his immediate family history is rooted in the rolling farmland around Bellfountain.

The community park sits on land that once was part of the Humphrey family farm. Over time, great-uncle George divvied up the land among his four sons. It’s where my grandfather, Eston Bruce Humphrey, and his father, Walter, were both born. Since then, it has changed hands outside of the family. The patch of hillside where the old cemetery is fenced off has a good clan of Humphrey men and their Perin wives resting underneath the douglas fir trees. It was a good reminder that I need to have more conversations like that with my Dad.

*The title is inspired by the 1985 film, The Trip to Bountiful, in which a woman in her twilight years yearns to return for one last visit to her childhood home in Bountiful, Texas. Geraldine Page was awarded an Academy Award for her work in the movie.

10 June 2006

Balloon Blogging from Bend

balloon glow
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
The first time I saw a hot air balloon night glow was entirely by happenstance. I was living in southeastern New Mexico at the time, serving as a missionary, and enjoying dinner with some members of the local congregation. Bobbing up over their backyard fence we could see the balloons inflate and rise into golden orbs glowing in the evening spring air. Dinner was forgotten as we dashed around the block to watch and mingle and enjoy the event.

That was ten years ago, and I’ve thought many times about attending another balloon fest. When I found out about the Balloons Over Bend Festival a couple of months ago, I quickly made plans to go. Tonight was the balloon glow at Pilot Butte State Park. I arrived just in time to watch the balloons glow in the twilight for about ten minutes before deflating and packing up for tomorrow’s morning flight.

Since I don’t land in Bend that often, dinner was the gnocchi genovese at Giuseppe’s Italian Ristorante. The gnocchi is seared crisp on the top, and served with grilled leeks and sautéed pancetta and mushrooms over a creamy gorgonzola sauce. It’s definitely a good idea to bring a hungry dining companion with you.