April 2011

Aloha Seattle

At the Space Needle

Week 12 of 52

Experience Music ProjectIt’s Easter Sunday, the end of Week 12 of 52, and the end of our time here in Seattle and the incredibly picturesque Northwest. We’ve loved it here and as many have pointed out, we weren’t even here in the summer when it’s really gorgeous! (We did get a taste yesterday when it was 75 degrees, an amazing blue sky without a cloud in it, and lots of people out on Alki Beach biking, skating, walking and having a great time!)

We had a “bucket list” of things we wanted to do while we were here and we still had a few items we hadn’t done. We finally made it up to the top of the Space Needle and WOW! What a view in every direction. We also went to the Experience Music Project. The photo above (the one that looks like stomach surgery gone wrong) is the building designed by Frank Gehry and, well, it’s different…. They just opened up the Nirvana exhibit so even though we’re flower children from the ’60s we now know all about the “grunge music scene of the ’90s.” Seeing the outside you can only imagine how innovative the exhibits were, lots of good fun especially for Harrison who has such eclectic musical tastes.

Facing FutureMusic seemed to be the “theme of the week.” We got to hear the Seattle Symphony play Gershwin and Tchaikovsky at Benaroya Hall and then we topped it off last night with some wonderful southern eats and good blues at the Highway 99 Blues Club near Pike Place Market. A true blues bar with live music every night of the week.

If that musical lineup isn’t diverse enough for you (remember a few weeks ago it was bluegrass and barbershop quartets!) we have another book recommendation, this one about Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole (yes, we can spell that WITHOUT looking it up). Facing Future by Dan Kois gives you an inside look (sometimes sweet, sometimes not so pretty) of the musician who is now famous throughout the world for his Somewhere Over the Rainbow medley and who is a legend throughout Hawaii. At only 144 pages (small kine for our Hawaii contingent) it’s a quick but good read. Even if you’re not interested in all things Hawaiian, the CD is wonderful.

Jim and Donna

The lovely and talented Jim and Donna!

As the first leg of our year-long trip comes to a close, we want to say a very heartfelt mahalo to our dear friends, Jim and Donna. They stayed in our condo in Honolulu for a month last December, and in return, we got three months in theirs in Seattle! We didn’t plan it that way, we just loved it here so much, we kept extending! And thanks to their kindness and generosity, it has been a wonderful start to our extended retirement party. Thanks you two, you are very special to us.

So what now? We leave Tuesday for a 4–5 week driving trip across the northern states and parts of Canada, starting out by heading up to Vancouver BC via Whidbey Island and Anacortes. The plan is to end up in Boston around the first week of June and hang out there until we leave for Europe in early July. We’re completely wired with 3 laptops, 2 iPhones, Skype, GPS, and Harrison’s digital library of 5,000 songs he installed from his collection before we left. If our technology dies, we have maps, Bananagrams, and some Trivial Pursuit cards, so we’ll be just fine!

Washington Ferry

Next stop: Vancouver!

Thanks to all our friends in Seattle, Portland and Ashland for your thoughtfulness and generosity. We had a great time…

A hui hou!
Sharene and Harrison

Seattle Countdown

Pike Place Fish Market

Week 11 of 52

Pike Place MarketAloha all:

Our friend Jeanne’s visit ended last Monday with a trip to the famous Pike Place Market, an open-air market that is over 100 years old with lots of shops and cafes, vendors that sell everything, great produce, and amazing fish! Jeanne and Sharene celebrated their last night with fresh crab, sourdough bread and a nice chardonnay, and played a game of Bananagrams. Sharene has known Jeanne for over 30 years and had no idea she grew up with a different dictionary than the rest of us… we had some fun laughs at some of the words she thought up!

Thursday night we saw the Dukes of Dixieland play at Benaroya Hall. If you like traditional jazz weaving strands of pop, gospel, and country with authentic New Orleans sounds, then these are the guys for you. Funny thing was, Sharene had the famous New Orleans funeral song “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” going around in her head for days afterward, but they didn‘t even play that one. Ah, the power of suggestion….

We checked in with our former partner and friend, Steve, to see how he and his wife Iku were doing in Japan. They own a beautiful home on the Big Island and we asked why they hadn’t left to come to Hawaii to get away from Japan. His answer was quite moving: there is a very strong sense of community and of not giving up here and we feel a commitment to stay. All the foreigners that I know here feel the same way. Rather than leaving I actually have strong desires to go up north and volunteer to help; I wish I had the language skills to make that feasible but I know I would just be in the way.

The sentiments he wrote are similar to other stories we have heard coming out of Japan. An amazing time in their history.

Just when we were discussing how there had been no natural disasters for a few weeks, no broken bones or big illnesses with us or our friends, we got a call from Rick. (Remember Rick? He fell and broke his hip a couple of weeks ago.) Well, Laurel, his younger daughter, ended up in the hospital with pneumonia this weekend! So off we went to visit Laurel at the same hospital where Rick had his surgery just 10 days ago.

St. Anthony HospitalSo this is the part where we tell you about Gig Harbor and its amazing hospital, St. Anthony, which could almost double as a 5-Star resort. (Harrison calls it the Taj Mahospital.) This photo is just one view looking out to the courtyard, but this is one impressive, huge state-of-the-art hospital… and Gig Harbor is just a small seaside town south of Seattle with LESS THAN 10,000 PEOPLE!

Poor little Hilo will never see anything like this….

Laurel In the Hospital

Rick, H, Laurel, Maggie, S

Not one to stay down for long, Laurel’s hard to see behind Maggie, but she’s laughing and smiling and happy to have visitors even though she’s really sick. Laurel is an occupational therapist and has worked at this very hospital, but this is the first time she’s been a patient, so she’s fascinated to be on the other side of the fence and might have a little better understanding of her own patients once she’s back to work.

So now Laurel and Rick now have matching walkers!! These two have such a great outlook on life, we know they won’t be down long.

Unfamiliar FishesSo here’s another “we’re not on a little island anymore” story… Harrison went to hear Sarah Vowell (author and public radio commentator) give a talk on her new book Unfamiliar Fishes, a look at the history of Hawaii from the arrival of the missionaries to the overthrow of the monarchy and annexation to the United States. Sounded to him like a pretty obscure topic for a Seattle audience, but the 800-seat hall she was speaking in was completely sold out! He didn’t get to hear her, but he bought the book and highly recommends it if you’re interested in how Hawaii came to be the way it is. It’s an interesting read even if you’re not all that interested in Hawaii, because so much of what happened in Hawaii was related to bigger US and world issues of the time that are relevant even today.

So that’s it for Week 11! We’re on the countdown here in Seattle, only 10 more days here in this beautiful city. Thanks for letting us share a part of our lives with you and we wish you all a safe and uneventful week, because sometimes uneventful is a good thing!

A hui hou,
Sharene and Harrison

Great Times in the Northwest

Chihuly Glass

Week 10 of 52

Aloha all:

Here we are in Week 10 and we’re still having a great time in the Northwest.

We started the week out by going to Gig Harbor (near Tacoma) to see our good friend Rick (see Week 6). Rick had an unfortunate accident this past week; he slipped on some mud, fell, and before he knew it, he was being wheeled into surgery and is now the proud owner of a brand new hip! Rick, in typical fashion, is in good spirits but this is one more reminder of how life can change in an instant. Oh did we mention his wife and his daughter were suppose to go to Maui the next day? The good wife and daughter they were, they opted to stay with the patient instead; that’s the true meaning of ALOHA.

Kids Design Glass CollectionSince we were in the Tacoma area, there were two places on our Must See list. First, the Museum of Glass. Truly incredible. Of course the glass sculptures and objects show immense creativity, color and grace, and leave you scratching your head as to how these pieces of art are actually made as you can see from the photo above as an example. But then you go to their HOT SHOP where you watch them work; these are not staged demonstrations, you really watch the team making items with the molten glass. Fascinating. The best part by far, though, was seeing the Kids Design Glass Collection. This is where kids can use their imaginations and submit their sketches of animals, plants, or anything they can think of, and the Hot Shop Team turns their designs into a piece of glass art, staying true to the child’s drawing. There were dozens on display, the glass sculpture alongside a photo of the child’s art.

Alan and Harrison at MITNext, at Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) we were lucky enough to catch a traveling exhibition of Norman Rockwell’s work. No photos here for you (they were prohibited) but it was a lot of fun to see every one of the hundreds of his Saturday Evening Post covers displayed with many of his larger works. What an American icon and a lot of his art is so clever and whimsical.

Harrison left for Boston on Friday to attend the 50-year anniversary celebration of MIT’s student radio station, which over the years has had the call letters WMIT, WTBS (which Ted Turner bought), and most recently WMBR. He spent many hours there (probably too many!) when he was a student. While at MIT he saw Alan, a long-time friend from Buffalo, NY, who was a close colleague at the station. They’re in front of the Stata Building at MIT, which has an unusual design by Frank Gehry. He gets back to Seattle on Tuesday.

Sharene Bev Jeanne

S, Bev, Jeanne

While Harrison was on the East Coast, Sharene’s long-time friend Jeanne from Santa Cruz came up to spend the weekend. They had a great time seeing some of Seattle’s sights and then took the ferry over to Whidbey Island to hook up with Bev. Jeanne, Bev and Sharene all worked together at Bank of America (about 100 years ago!) so it was fun to get together again. Jeanne and her husband are real estate agents in Santa Cruz (where they donate 10% of their earnings back to the schools… how cool is THAT?). And Bev was with us (Harrison and Sharene) on our second date back in 1986!

With JudyFor those of you who knew Phil Harper, a radio DJ for many years in Seattle, you’ll remember him as someone who lived life large and who was a booming personality. Phil passed away in 2004, but we met up with Judy, his wife of 25+ years at her Queen Anne home. Judy is happy, healthy, and yes, that is her not-so-baby grand piano! It was great to catch up with her.

We sure have had a wonderful time in Seattle; only two more weeks here and we’ll hit the road to start traveling by car across Canada and the US until we get to Boston (just in time for MIT’s 100th Anniversary!). But we still have a few more fun things on our bucket list to do while we’re here. Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback on our weekly travelogue. Sorry if we’re a little long winded; doesn’t look like we would be very good Twitterers, and that’s probably just as well!

Have a great week. A hui hou!!!

Sharene and Harrison

More SF… and More!

Week 9 of 52

Aloha all:

We’re baaaaaacckkkkk…. Yes, we know you just heard from us a few days ago, but it is Sunday so it’s time for another update. We just finished Week 9 of our year-long adventure and it was another action-packed week.

Max and Rod

Max, S, Rod

There are always too many people to see when we go back to San Francisco. We never get them all in and this trip was no exception. But Sharene did get to see a couple she hadn’t seen in many years and it was such a treat to spend some time with them at their amazing Victorian, built in the 1880s. Max and Rod have been together for over 47 years and bought this house together in 1964! Max and Rod treated Sharene (and a few friends) to a fantastic dinner at a small but elegant Chinese restaurant on Hayes called ABACUS… we highly recommend it.

One of the reasons Sharene got to hang out with these two very cool guys, was that they had two very cool women staying in their very cool studio. The two women were Maxine and Maya, friends of ours from Switzerland who were kind enough to schedule their holiday at the same time as Cathy’s birthday week! Sharene played tour guide with Maxine and Maya—it wasn’t hard to impress them since the sun was shining and SF looked liked the world-class city it is.

Maxine and Maya

Maxine and Maya

They started out at Twin Peaks, then hit the SF Museum of Modern Art, the Embarcadero, the Golden Gate Bridge and Park (of course!), Ocean Beach, and a place not to be missed on anyone’s visit and the highlight of Maya’s stay… the Sports Basement! (The old commissary at the Presidio has been turned into a sort of Costco for all clothes related to sports.) Who knew? So Maxine and Sharene went and had coffee while Maya was amazed at the difference in prices between SF and Switzerland for shoes and running ‘costumes’ as she calls them.

SF is known for its great restaurants, but Maxine is a European Julia Child and had an urge to cook dinner on her last night… so off to Whole Foods in the Haight we went and then on to Cathy’s flat in Cole Valley where Maxine managed to have deep, meaningful conversations with Cathy and Sharene while she cooked up a delicious creamy cheese and pasta dish. We offered to take her out, but she was right, it was more fun hanging out and cooking a meal together; when we look back on our European visits, those times were the most fun for us as well.

Harrison was happy to have Sharene come back last Wednesday, but then he flew to Spokane on Friday to attend the Sweet Adelines Pacific Northwest Competition. This is the women’s version of Barbershop Quartet; he wasn’t disappointed watching these amazing women perform. It was sort of like attending American Idol for the Barbershop Quartet genre. And the winner was his favorite: FRENZY. No website but they do have a Frenzy Quartet FaceBook Page for anyone interested.

We ended the week by going to Sammamish (a picturesque suburb east of Seattle) and having dinner at the home of Jeanne, a friend and former client. Jeanne owns a beautiful Maui condo at Kihei Akahi, just four doors down from ours. She loves to cook and has fed us on many occasions on Maui. This time, we got to see the fabulous Northwest home she shares with partner George (whom we have heard about for years and years) and their cat Handsome Hanson.

Jeanne and George

George and Jeanne

Their house and garden (which they designed and built) overlooks Lake Sammamish. After some maitais by the fire (a new trend in the Pacific NW?) we sat down to a beautiful dinner topped off with fresh, homemade blackberry pie. Between her home, her cooking, and her seamless entertaining skills, she’s a tough act to follow, that’s for sure.

Fun we had, but by 10:30 we said our aloha goodbyes and headed back to West Seattle. Sammamish seems a long way away, but we were home in 30 minutes! Without traffic, this area is a dream.

The skies are a little gray today, but there are lots of walkers and runners out along the Alki Avenue promenade in front of the condo; it’s great to see them. Yesterday, we watched a group of 50 or so walkers go by with their dogs all wearing scarves with red dots, and a sign asking for donations to help the pets who have suffered in the tsunami.

So as we end Week 9, we are once again thankful for all we have and for the dear friends we are having the opportunity to spend time and laugh with. In another three weeks we will have left Seattle so we have lots to do between now and then.

Have a great week and we’ll check in on Sunday April 10!

A hui hou,
Sharene & Harrison