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Tag: seattle

A rowboat is home for Three Stars and Lulu

You know we can’t pass up a homeless person and dog story — whether it’s one we stumble upon, or one somebody else has.

Erik Lacitis, of the Seattle Times, came across such a pair living in a 14-foot aluminum rowboat, anchored in a foot of water, under the pillars of the Highway 520 bridge.

There, William Kaphaem — who prefers his Mohawk name, “Three Stars” — lives, cocoon-like, with his  dog, Lulu, under a brown plastic tarp that, inside, affords a few feet of headroom and, outside, blends in with the muddy shore.

The story appeared in the Times yesterday.

Inside his rowboat home, Three Stars, who is 51, reads by lantern light and listens to baseball games on a battery-powered radio. Across the boat’s benches, he has laid a sheet of plywood that serves as his bed. Three Stars has five spinning rods he uses to catch perch, bass and the occasional trout, and a collapsible trap for catching crawdads.

Among the some 2,400 homeless counted living outside this January in the Seattle area, the newspaper says, his one of the more unusual living arrangements.

Three Stars told the reporter he moved onto the rowboat because he needed someplace to store his stuff.

“I’ve got a lot of stuff. I didn’t want to schlep it around town like some tramp,” he said. “I’ve got more dignity than that.”

He lives on $636 a month SSI, and until last year he was renting a room. But when the owner of the home died, he had to look for a new place.

Three Stars told Lacitis he’s prone to talking too much. He said he has held ”40 jobs in two years, and I got fired in all of them … Burger King, grocery store … sometimes I can’t shut my face.”

He grew up in Massachusetts and Florida, and came to Seattle to be a street musician. He used to play, with Lulu at his side, on the sidewalk outside of Pacific Place in downtown Seattle — until his wrist started falling asleep. Three Stars says Lulu is a mixture of wolf and husky, and is almost 10 years old.

Three Stars says he likes the solitude of the living arrangement he shares with Lulu.

“It’s a very peaceful experience.”

(Photo by Mark Harrison / Seattle Times)

Ace Hotel: Shaggy dogs and shabby chic

Here’s the good news: There’s a chain of hipster, dog-friendly hotels bearing the same name as my dog.

Here’s the bad: Much as we’d have liked to stay in one of them, much as we are — in our own view — “hipsters,” Ace and I can’t even afford “Bohemian.”

“Minimalist,” it seems, is beyond our means.

We dropped in at the Ace Hotel in Seattle, where the chain got started, and checked out the one in Portland, where it’s now headquartered, but — even with the sliding scale it offers, with lower prices if you share a bathroom – it was out of our league.

So here, I’ve decided, is what America needs — a level of lodging slightly below Bohemian, but slightly above the YMCA, a motel chain that’s dog friendly and mostly free of germs, crawling bugs and psychos. Motel 6  probably comes closest – hopelessly unhip as it is.

The Ace Hotels, from what I saw of them, do minimalist much better, except for the price part. All four are in old buildings with rich histories, and the furnishings– from hotel to hotel and from room to room – are varied and eclectic, as opposed to going the cheap motel route of putting the same cookie-cutter formica furniture in every room across the  nation.

Therein lies the difference between Bohemian and Institutional, and who wouldn’t rather spend the night in a place that makes you feel like a beatnik, as opposed to an inmate.

Depending on your own personal economic condition, Ace Hotels are worth checking into if you’re traveling to New York, Palm Springs, Portland or Seattle, because, on top of their dog friendliness, they have some character, which the big chains always lack.

There is another solution to this issue — this issue being getting accurate information on lodging that has character, and is both dog and wallet friendly — and it doesn’t involve chains at all. Instead it involves looking at the world through something other than a corporate lens.

There are some otherwise fine guide books and websites out there that can help one find dog-friendly hotels and motels. The problem is, most of them don’t make much effort to include the non-chains, the mom-and-pop, small independent motels — many of them dog friendly — that don’t charge exorbitant prices for a room. And still have character.

Perhaps it would be too much work for the guidemakers. Perhaps mom and pop aren’t Internet-savvy enough to get their establishments listed. In any case, the result is, from AAA to bringfido.com, the options presented are almost always the big boys — Motel 6, Super 8, Best Western, La Quinta, Holiday Inn, Sheraton, Hilton, Hyatt and on up the ladder of chains.

As a result, pup-friendly mom and pop — who are probably much more in need of the boost in business that comes with being known as dog-friendly – are ignored, because they own one motel instead of 500 of them.

Ranting aside, we stopped by the Ace Hotel in Seattle to take a look, and considered staying at the one in Portland. Both, in the parlance of the trade, are considered ”boutique” hotels — which is basically a term meaning it hasn’t grown into full chainhood yet and is still small enough to be charming

While both qualified for our hipster seal of approval, both were beyond our budget, even if we shared a bathroom.

The desk clerk at the Ace in Seattle explained that the name was chosen because aces can be both high and low, and the hotel strives to provide lodgings at both ends of the spectrum, as well as provide high quality at low price.

The hotel in Seattle is in a former Salvation Army halfway house located in the Belltown neighborhood. In Portland, the Ace moved into what was the Clyde Hotel, the lobby of which served as a setting for scene in the movie, “Drugstore Cowboy.” The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In Palm Springs, the Ace Hotel is in a converted Howard Johnson’s; and in New York it occupies the Breslin, a former single-room-occupancy hotel at the corner of 29th Street and Broadway. Transforming it meant displacing some longtime residents.

A New York Times review of the hotel called it “shabby chic” before snottily adding, ”a bit too redolent of the past.”

Ace Hotels got their start when Seattle native Alex Calderwood and some friends decided to create a hip yet minimalist hotel. The Ace Hotel in Seattle opened in 1999; and in 2007 they opened one in Portland.

Calderwood’s hipsterness went back even further than that. He used to throw warehouse parties for the grunge set, later moving up to hosting events for Microsoft. Today, he holds four Aces, and, at last report, had his sights set on a fifth.

Given that growth, I think it’s time the chain start considering some advertising, and perhaps a spokesdog. I have one in particular in mind, whose services can be obtained for a reasonable fee — a sliding scale even. I’ve got some other promotional ideas, too, such as complimentary slightly used flannel pajamas for all guests, and even a slogan to help get across the message that the hotels are dog friendly:

“We’ll leave the bowl out for you.”

My highly thoughtful hosts in Seattle

Dogs are too smart to hold elections, and it would be presumptuous of us to do it for them. But if there ever were a vote for which breed to make class clown, the bull terrier would be a strong contender.

I say this having only limited experience with the breed – virtually all of it through a woman named Marilyn Bailey, and most of it in the last three days, during which time her two dogs kept a smile on my face, made me laugh out loud and even brought Ace out of his diarrhea doldrums enough to play.

Ace is better now, thanks in large part of Marilyn, who spoiled him with cottage cheese, eggs, rice and other forms of pampering, and to Browser (above left) and Ivy (above right), whose goofiness — though young Ivy is far goofier than old Browser — is, while laughable, also somehow soothing, like an old sitcom.

Marilyn and I worked together at a newspaper in Lexington, Kentucky. That was 30 years ago, and I believe her bull terrier then was named Hot Shot. In the interim, I’ve seen her maybe three times. Yet, when she heard about our travels, she invited us to stay when we came through Seattle, and she treated us like family — in the good and functional, kind and caring sense of the word.

She’s a serene and laid back sort, which can be an advantage when one is raising bull terriers, or when one is married to Carleton W. Bryant, as she is.

If Marilyn and Carl were a Chinese food entree, they’d be sweet and sour something.

If Marilyn is the epitome of graciousness, Carl is the personification of sarcasm, prone to hilariously biting comments, skewering those in need of a good skewering, and a bluntness that can leave you disarmed. Acerbic and gruff as he is, though, there are signs that, deep down, he’s actually a tender-hearted soul.

Marilyn is a copy editor for the Seattle Times, Carl is a media consultant whose current projects include a website he developed called MrThoughtful.com.

It offers a solution for those men who just can’t seem to remember to acknowledge significant dates –  birthdays, anniversaries, etc. — with a card, or, at best, wait to the very last minute to do so.

The website serves as an automatic, surrogate card buyer.

Users register and create a profile of events and relationships — who in their lives they should send what cards to when. Then, as the significant dates approach, they receive by mail the appropriate card and envelope, as well as an email reminder to make sure it gets to the intended recipient.

Magically and with little effort, they appear to be thoughtful guys, fooling everybody. (There’s also a MsThoughtful.com, but the marketing pitch is slightly different. It’s for the woman too ”busy” to buy cards, as opposed to just being a negligent oaf.)

But back to their dogs, dog show quality both, and members of what, to me — with their huge and sloping, football-shaped heads — is one of the more unusual looking breeds of dogs. It was rare, back in Baltimore for Ace to run into a bull terrier. The one time he did, he approached it slowly, almost as if he wasn’t sure it was a member of his species.

Browser, 11, is a mellow sort, content to sidle up to you and stay there – for days, it seems. Ivy, not yet two, is contagiously playful. By the second day of our stay she had Ace fired up. Of course, they chose to let loose in the formal living room, where she’d run up to Ace, jump on him, then scurry away, somehow managing, while traveling at high speeds, to slide her whole muscular body under the sofa, before repeating the process.

Ace, who likes to softly bite the legs of the dogs he’s playing with, or stick their entire head in his mouth, had some difficulty with the latter, but that didn’t stop him from trying.

Both Browser and Ivy have an endearing habit of approaching when you are seated, bowing their head and pushing it softly into our stomach. Ace will do this from time to time, but only for half a minute. Browser seemed happy to stay in that position for five minutes.

While speedy dogs, as Ivy showed, they are also very adept at standing still — perfectly still. It’s almost as if they become statues, motionlessly pondering what to do next and whether it’s worth the effort.

Both loved to snuggle, Browser for extended periods, Ivy only briefly before nibbling your ear, climbing your torso or scooting off in search of something more interesting.

Once seated in Marilyn’s lap at their home in Kirkland, though, she settles down, almost as if hypnotized.

Marilyn sent us off  with a huge care package — sandwiches, beverages and apple cobbler for me, and for Ace, dog biscuits, atop which she spread peanut butter. Carl, who provided us with several great Seattle area tours, sent us off with a list of places to see on Oregon’s coast and one of his website’s promotional caps, allowing me to show the world just how incredibly thoughtful I am. Ivy and Browser — members of a breed whose faces seem to say, “Yes, I’m a dog, and I plan to engage in some dog-like antics. You want to make something of it?” — sent us off with a warm and giggly feeling.

One day soon, I’ll need to thank them for all that southern hospitality, Seattle-style.

Maybe I’ll send them a card.

The Seattle he saw; the Seattle I saw

When it came to Seattle, John Steinbeck found some charm in the downtown market area, but otherwise painted a bleak portrait. To him, by the time he and Charley rolled through the Emerald City, the flower was off the bloom. 

Seattle had boomed repeatedly before he arrived, thanks to lumber, gold, shipbuilding and Boeing; and, decades after he was gone, it would boom again, thanks to Microsoft, Amazon and a slew of other high tech and biotech companies that located there. 

The Seattle Steinbeck and Charley pulled into in 1960 was far different from the Seattle of today, and far different from the one he remembered — its rapid growth, in his view, having tarnished the land: 

“I remembered Seattle as a town sitting on hills beside a matchless harborage — a little city of space and trees and gardens … It is no longer so. The tops of hills are shaved off to make level warrens for the rabbits of the present. The highways eight lanes wide cut like glaciers through the uneasy land. This Seattle had no relation to the one I remembered. The traffic rushed with murderous intensity … 

“Along what had been country lanes rich with berries, high wire fences and mile-long factories stretched and the yellow smoke of progress hung over all, fighting the sea winds’ efforts to drive them off … Everywhere frantic growth, a carcinomatous growth … I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.” 

That’s not the Seattle I saw. 

To me, Seattle seems a city that has come to handle growth far better than most. It’s one of America’s most scenic, literate, educated, progressive, well off and environmentally conscious cities. It’s green in all three meanings of the word. And it’s highly dog-friendly

Maybe it’s a case of the difference 50 years makes, or of how city leaders have taken control of the reigns of growth. Maybe, too, Steinbeck’s less than flattering description was partly a result of being a little down when he arrived — what with his dog having been sick, himself being travel weary. Likely, Steinbeck — who waited several days in Seattle for his wife, who was having difficulty getting a flight –  was getting a little crabby. 

He spent three or four days luxuriating in his hotel room near the airport, watching “I Love Lucy” and other TV shows — not the best way to get one’s fingers into the fabric of a city — as he waited for Elaine Steinbeck.

Once she arrived, they visited the downtown market before heading down the coast of Oregon together to California. Sections of the original manuscript recounting his time with his wife were later edited out of the book — the “we’s” changed to “I’s”. 

“… I walked in the old part of Seattle, where the fish and crabs and shrimps lay beautifully on white beds of shaved ice and where the washed and shining vegetables were arranged in pictures. I drank clam juice and ate the sharp crab cocktails at stands along the waterfront. It was not much changed — a little more run-down and dingy than it was twenty years ago.” 

Seattle — now better known for grunge than dinge — would continue to have it’s ups and downs  after he left. Two years after Steinbeck’s visit — the year “Travels with Charley” came out — Seattle was the site of the 1962 World’s Fair. In the late 60s and early 70s, its economy took a turn for the worse – to the point that one local Realtor put up a now legendary billboard requesting that the last resident to exit turn off the light. 

Like all big cities, Seattle, during the suburbanization of America, faced seeing its core rot away — or, as Steinbeck described it: 

“… When a city begins to grow and expand outward, from the edges, the center which was once its glory is in a sense abandoned to time. Then the buildings grow dark and a kind of decay sets in, poorer people move in as the rents fall, and small fringe buinesses take the place of once flowering establishments…” 

The downtown Seattle I saw — unlike some — was still flowering, and thriving, as much as any place is thriving nowadays. 

It’s all subjective, though. Our impression of a new place is based on the tiny part of it we see, what transpires in that process, the mood we’re in while seeing it, and, often, who we see it with.

In my case, this time around I had two long-time residents serving as my hosts and tour guides. (More on them tomorrow.) 

Had I been on my own, I likely would have sought out and found the market, but I probably wouldn’t have found what’s called the first Starbucks.

I probably wouldn’t have seen the view of the skyline from Kerry Park; the street performer that plays and juggles guitars, all while hula-hooping; or the hotel that bears the same name as my dog. (More on that Monday.)

I’d been to Seattle before, but only in a rush-in, pester-people, get-the-story, rush-out newspaper reporter kind of way. 

That — a hit and run — is not the correct way to meet a city. 

What is? 

Here again, maybe we can learn something from dogs. For starters, take your time. Forget your schedule, and all those other uniquely human notions. Instead, let the city hold its hand out to you. Circle it a time or two, explore the periphery, then approach it slowly. Give it a sniff and, if you like what you smell, maybe a lick. After that, you can jump up on it, snuggle with it, play with it, fetch what it throws, savor the treats it offers, even choose to become loyal to it.

In other words, to paraphrase the author whose route we are following, and who some might suggest failed to follow his own advice when it came to Seattle: Don’t take the trip, let the trip take you.

Portraits of Ace, in sculpture

Ace will clamber right up on a picnic table. He’ll settle on a park bench just like a human. And when it comes to public sculpture, he will –  with the slightest encouragement and if there is room — climb aboard as well.

So with no disrespect to the artists intended — actually quite the opposite — here are some photos of Ace, who is feeling much better, thank you, posing on and in public sculpture in Seattle.

Being, in my view, a work of art himself, Ace only adds to the artists’ works, breathes new life into them, and, hey, they are public. If they were fenced off, of course, we wouldn’t trespass upon them, I’m pretty sure.

Above and to the left is “Changing Form,” by Doris Chase, located in Kerry Park in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood .

I’d like to think that Doris, who died two years ago, would have no problem with Ace climbing into her 15 foot tall steel sculpture — that she and other creators of outdoor art would actually want people to touch and climb on and fully experience (except for peeing, which Ace didn’t) their works.

The sculpture consists of stacked geometric shapes with cutouts opening to views of downtown Seattle. (The view of the skyline from Kerry Park is a famous one, and also served as the view from Frazier’s condominium on the television show.)

Chase, a Seattle artist who later became known for her pioneering work in video art, finished the sculpture in 1971. The piece was commissioned by the daughters of A. Kerry, the benefactor who gave the city Kerry Park.

This donut-looking work is “Black Sun,” by Isamu Noguchi, a prominent Japanese-American artist who died in 1988.

It’s located in Seattle’s Volunteer Park, where tourists frequently photograph it with the Space Needle showing through the hole.

We managed to capture the Space Needle and Ace, who,  though he would have preferred a real giant donut, still eagerly approached and jumped up on the sculpture.

I suspect that doggy types will have no problem with Ace climbing up on treasured works of art, and that artsy types might view it as rude, and that doggy-artsy types will have mixed feelings.

But I would argue that art placed in a park — as opposed to behind a glass case in a museum — is meant to touch, and be touched by, the populace, and I consider dogs part of the populace.

There was one statue Ace didn’t have a chance to climb aboard. The artist beat me to the punch. It already sported a canine – a coyote, to be precise.

This statue of a coyote standing atop a cow used to be in Pioneer Square in Seattle. It now calls a sidewalk in Kirkland home.

It was the first statue cast by artist Brad Rude — a Montana born artist who grew up in Walla Walla and attended Maryland Institute College of Art.

He sculpted the life-sized cow and coyote in plaster while working at a foundry. When he asked the foundry owner for a raise, the owner volunteered to cast the cow and coyote in bronze.

Some people find the concept odd — a cow with a coyote standing on his back.

But it makes perfect sense to me.

Roadside Encounters: Tugg

Name: Tugg

Breed: Lhasa Apso

Age: 16 months

Encountered: At Volunteer Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Backstory: “Joyful, dignified, mischievous and aloof.” That’s how the American Kennel Club describes the personality of the Lhasa Apso. The personality of Tugg — while he looks pretty dignified at left – may be completely different, for all I know.

I only spent a couple of minutes with him — most of that taking photographs, which he didn’t seem to mind at all — before his human, Amanda, took off.

The breed originated hundreds of years ago in the remote Himalayan Mountains, and served mainly to guard the homes of Tibetan nobility and Buddhist monasteries. Those were near the sacred city of Lhasa.

That explains the Lhasa, but what about the Apso? According to 5stardog.com, there are two theories.

One is that it comes from rapso, the Tibetan word for goat. Supposedly, the breed’s coat resembled that of the goats kept by Tibetan herders. Another is that because of the breed’s role guarding sacred places, ancient Tibetans referred to it as apso seng kye, which translates into “bark lion sentinel dog.”

I don’t know which, if either, is right.

The message I got from Tugg — whose face, to me, even without the setting sun dappling it, reflected both wisdom and inscrutability – was that he’d prefer the mystery to remain.

Seattle: Where dogs are king

To my list of top five dog parks in America — which for all I know may number 16 by now — I must add one more: Marymoor Park in King County, Washington.

This is what a dog park should be — not some over-landscaped half acre, not fake hills covered with fake grass, not a field of gravel or a stretch of pavement.

Marymoor’s dog park is about as organic as dog parks get — this is Seattle after all — with the only obvious addition to its 40 acres of nature being the tons of mulch on the trails to keep things from getting too soggy.

“Doggy Disneyland,” as some call it, is huge — and hugely popular. When Ace and I visited this week, we saw two jam-packed parking lots, and well over 100 dogs romping about, some in the river, some in the open fields.

Located on what used to be a farm, the dog park features several hundred feet of river access and numerous walking paths. It’s less than two miles from the main Microsoft campus, which is something to behold as well.

The Seattle area, just as it draws high tech companies, seems to attract dog lovers — either that or it sprouts them from its well-watered soil. The abundance of dogs,  the esteem in which they are held, and lots of hard work have combined to make it a good place to be a dog.

Seattle and its surrounding area started opening dog parks before a lot of cities even started thinking about them.

The Save Our Dog Area committee of Marymoor Park formed in 1987 when citizens learned the King County Parks Division planned to close the off-leash area.

It managed to convince the county that dogs and their owners were as deserving of some recreational space as soccer-playing kids, kite-flyers and picnickers.

In 1995, the King County Council voted to adopt the new Marymoor Master Plan which called for keeping the dog area open and operating. After that SODA, which initially stood for “Save Our Dog Areas,” became “Serve Our Dog Areas,” working to maintain the acreage devoted to dogs.

Within the city of Seattle, another group, COLA (Citizens for Off-Leash Areas) was formed in 1995, seeking permanent off-leash recreational access in some of Seattle’s nearly 400 parks.

After opening seven dog parks on a trial basis, the Seattle City Council in 1997 voted 9-0 to establish permanent off-leash dog areas, giving COLA the responsibility of stewarding the sites for the Department of Parks and Recreation. There are now 11 of them.

In our 17,000 miles of traveling so far we’ve seen a lot of dog-friendly towns, including the dog-friendliest, but the Seattle area, in our book, has got to be one of the dog friendliest big cities in the country … Rain or shine.

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