On Monday around noon, we took the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds, where we'd spend the next twenty four hours with Larry's Aunt Stefani and Uncle George. Stefani and George have been married for over 50 years and lived for years in San Francisco, Stefani directing plays at the San Francisco Actor's Ensemble and George worked as an editor at Bancroft Whitney. They retired some years ago to Vashon Island, Washington, but as they got a bit older, decided to simplify their life with a condo in Edmonds. Both Stefani and George are actors, and George discovered Edmonds while acting in an episode of the short-lived remake of the television series, "The Fugitive."
Edmonds is a beautiful, quaint port town, with a sweet downtown shopping area and a beautiful boardwalk and fishing pier. They started us with a walking tour of downtown pointing out the independent bookstore, the independent coffee house, the Starbucks they boycott, and several other boutiques and tourist shops, including Rick Steve's Travel headquarters.
In the afternoon, George drove us up to the Boeing Plant and Museum, giving us a chance to get a feel for the surrounding area and where we saw the massive planes.
After one of Stefani's famous home-cooked meals, we drove down to the boardwalk, and walked down the pier and out to Brackett's landing while the sun slowly fell in the sky. I got a chance to get to know Stefani and George a little, to hear about some of their theater and film projects over the years and about Stefani's continued work at the Edmonds Senior Center, where she teaches a local reader's theater class. The next day, they showed me YouTube videos of commercials they've been in--Stefani did one for the Washington State Lottery and George one for York Peppermint Patty. Both were hilarious and it was awesome to see them at work.
After a morning cup of coffee at Cafe Louvre, we bought some postcards and then headed back to their condo for a send-off lunch. I felt so grateful for their attentive hospitality and the invigorating conversation. Saying our goodbyes, we headed down to my first visit to Seattle.
Though I've spent a fair amount of time in Port Townsend, the San Juan Islands, and Whidbey Island in Washington and have flown into the Seattle-Tacoma airport a few times, I've never spent any time in Seattle itself and was curious. There are three people I know for sure who live in Seattle--Apis Malifera, a young singer-songwriter originally from Mariposa, California who I interviewed for Radio Merced about a year ago; Jose Guzman, who works in IT at the University of Washington and who was a student of mine my first year teaching at UC Merced, and Danielle Watts, a former student-turned-friend who was in my creative writing classes at Sul Ross University back when I lived in far West Texas. I set up to meet each of them on Tuesday night while Larry was looking forward to expanding his baseball stadium experience with a visit to Safeco Field and a Mariners-Astros game.
I met Apis downtown on First Street at a cool cafe called Ancient Grounds, where I had a chance to hear about her continuing work as a writer and singer-songwriter, and her life in Seattle. She works in an ice cream store called Full Tilt, which has four stores in the Seattle Area, most of which include pinball arcades and are known for their unusual flavors, rotating flavors such as peanut butter-bacon-chocolate. For more on Full Tilt, check out their website: http://fulltilticecream.com/about/ We talked, too, about how cities or towns absorb people, take care of them when they are meant to be there, by both fulfilling them socially and creatively as well as helping them find work and housing. I definitely have watched that happen to my sister in the Hood River, Oregon area and to others along the way.
Moving around the corner to the Pike Place neighborhood, I settled in a Seattle Coffee Works, meeting with Jose, who was on a bus stopover on his way home from work. I loved talking to him about his hopes and dreams, and especially loved the chance to have Apis and him connect so that he could get plugged into a more artsy community than he's had access to in Seattle thus far.
Finally, Danielle, who I hadn't seen for seven years, since I left West Texas, swooped me up and took me to dinner at Uneeda Burger in the cool Fremont District. We had a great time catching up, and I loved hearing about her different jobs and work with nonprofit support and educational organizations. While Larry was watching the Mariners lose by a landslide to the Astros in the beautiful ballpark, Danielle drove me up a hill where there's a place visitors and locals flock to watch the skyline of Seattle. It's especially great to watch from that vantage at dusk as the city turns to twinkling lights. I'd, of course, seen postcards and photos of the Seattle skyline, with the strange architecture of the Space Needle marking it, but as I turned the corner and came into full view from that height, my jaw dropped and I felt moved by the beauty of the sight, so much so, I felt like I was almost going to weep. I never thought a city skyline view would make me weep, but there you have it. I was quieted and humbled by the sight.
The next morning, we'd begin our long journey across Eastern Washington, where we'd stop in the college town of Ellensburg of Washington, to eat our lunch (which has typically become slices of a loaf of locally baked artisan bread, sliced tomatoes, and cheese or hummus) on the lawn in front of Central Washington University. Ellensburg has a population of about 18,000, but about 8000 of those people are students who are only there during the school year. It has small town charm with a feeling of vitality and lots of character. Our bread came from the small but wonderful Vinman's bakery, right across from the entrance to the university: http://www.vinmansbakery.com
After lunch, we went onward! To Smelterville, Idaho!