Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Family’s Home on Omenica St in Kitimat

With this post this blog goes on hiatus for 11 days (extra posts have already been posted earlier on) but will resume mid-day August 5.

Not a whole lot to tell on the topic really but here’s what there is. After moving from my family’s traditional home on Dunn St we moved to a smaller place on Omenica St, closer to my dad’s work place (we later moved even closer, to a much nicer place on Stikine St). I don’t have many memories about the place but I do recall two things: the previous owners had left a Garfield poster behind; I recall this because that poster is currently above the door of my apartment in Victoria, over two decades later. I also recall that the place was not the most sanitary place in the world. In fact the bathroom had a carpet, and there were mushrooms growing on it. And… yes, that’s pretty much all I recall about the place.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Remembering the Saturday Morning Public Service Announcements

Back in the 1970s and 1980s (maybe parts of the 1990s too) networks were required to put on material to educate kids on certain matters. On ABC in particular this manifested as a series of cartoon shorts, and I’ll get to those in a moment. NBC dabbled with cartoon shorts with the Metric Marvels, superheroes whose mission was to educate kids on the new Metric system. They may have helped us Canucks but they failed in their mission with their main target: American kids. They haven’t been seen in years; I like to imagine they died heroically battled Imperial forces.

But, again, ABC was the main source of these cartoon Public Service Announcements (PSAs). The most polished of these were the Schoolhouse Rock series (by the same people whop created the Metric Marvels), covering a wide range of topics including numbers, words, and even politics. I was only lukewarm about these growing up; though as an adult I have a lot more affection for them. They’re all out on DVD.

But I confess that my favourite of the ones shown on ABC were not the Schoolhouse Rock ones but the more oddball stuff produced by others. Yuck Mouth was a horror story of bad eating, Will E. Survive had an undeniable energy, and then there was the Chopper. Of all the PSAs, the Chopper short was the one that really warped my mind as a kid, because it didn’t make much sense. The Chopper was a greaser (i.e. like the Fonz) who advocated teeth exercising. He was very obsessed on this topic, to the point of passing on other forms of exercise like running laps in favour of eating his celery stick among other hard food. Here’s a few YouTube links; the odds are that at least will still be around a few years from now:

One last thing about the PSAs: they aired among other commercials and there was no discernable rhyme or reason as to when they’d air, so it was not unknown for a PSA on nutrition to be immediately followed by a candy or McDonald’s commercial. An amazing era in TV history.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dentist Visits in Kitimat

The dentist office in Kitimat was never a safe place to visit, at least in the 1980s (I should stress that the current people working in dentist’s offices in Kitimat probably have no connection to any of the dentist office workers described below). One time I went for a cleaning and the dentist assistant really seemed to enjoy the flossing process judging from not only from how deeply she flossed the teeth, causing bleeding, but also the determined facial expression. Another time I had a very nice umbrella with me, easily folded up so it would not take up much room and very wind resistant. Since it was well folded I tried to take it into the office with me but they insisted that I leave it in the waiting area, promising to keep an eye out on it. It got stolen and I’ve never since had as good an umbrella. And then there was the time I needed to have a wisdom tooth pulled. During the freezing the dentist told me to indicate if there wasn’t enough freezing. As he drilled I indicated that the freezing wasn’t enough but he wouldn’t believe me. I recall spending the rest of that day in a really foul, pain induced mood.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Kitimat Library Referendums

Efforts to get a new library in Kitimat definitely felt like something a corporation might do. The old location was in the Nechako area, pretty close to all but one elementary school and also close to both high schools. The planned new location was downtown, away from all but that one more remote elementary school. Two tactics stood. Out: they held a referendum on the topic every year, thus basically wearing the voters down so that they’d vote for the thing just to get it off the ballots. A cheekier move was to give very young kids helium balloons saying that they wanted a new library. The thing is, a helium balloon could advocate genocide of a third world country and a kid would still accept the balloon because they like helium balloons. Finally (I’m guessing more due to the former than the latter, they got their wish, and Kitimat’s library is now downtown, bigger than before and away from most of the schools (of which there are admittedly fewer of these days).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Walk from Terrace to Kitimat

It was June 30, 1989 (assuming my recollection of my age at the time is correct). I wanted to really challenge myself. So I used highway busses to travel from Kitimat to Terrace (this was well before there were transit busses going from Kitimat to Terrace). Along the way I made notes of landmarks along the way to encourage myself on.

Finally I began a walk from Terrace to Kitimat, a distance of 56 km. A number of people recognized me and offered me rides. I declined. The walk was not without its complications. The plan was that instead of buying cans of pop in Terrace I would buy them at Lakelse Hairsprings, where I stopped for a rest that proved a bit longer than planned, in part because they had no cans of pop there. I had to drink pop from the paper cups there. So this was my entire refreshments for the trip. Also, I bought some chocolate covered peanuts, for the road, which dried my mouth further. The worse part was there was a stretch of road where I didn’t see any landmarks I had written down. As a result I began imagining myself on a Moebius strip. I started modifying commercial jingles into silly songs (well, at least one jingle).

Finally I made it inside the city Limits. Shortly after I made it to the city, someone who had seen me on the highway offered me a lift home again; this time, since I had made it to the city limits, I accepted. The walk took, if memory serves, about 9 hours. The next day I was a barricade guard for the July 1st Parade and thought I’d be in terrible shape for that. As it turns out, I felt pretty good; the walk had given me an excellent sleep. Nowadays, I’m sure, I’d be in pretty rough shape after a walk of that intensity, even if I drank more liquids along the way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Cheap and High Adventure Way to Get from Victoria to Duncan

Note: after this post my blog returns to a one a day schedule until Monday, when it begins an 11-day hiatus.

Unlike my directions from Victoria to Seattle, I’m not going to put down exact times because, frankly, the Cowichan Valley branch of BC Transit changes their times too frequently. Note that it may be possible to get to Mill Bay at least cheaper by highway bus if you book over a month in advance, but what are the chances that you are going to know you are visiting Duncan on a specific day that far in advance? No rates offered either because they change too frequently as well. If you are going the opposite directly the cheapest way is to take the commuter bus, but for people going to Duncan in the morning and returning in the evening, there is no commuter bus.

From downtown Victoria, take the 75 bus as close as you can to the Brentwood Bay Ferry Terminal. Likely you’ll have to walk a few blocks (this is currently the case) but if so it’s downhill. Take the ferry from Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay Ferry Terminal (which is actually outside Mill Bay proper). They recently replaced the traditional Mill Bay terry with a new larger one. Now you’ll have to do a long hike from the ferry terminal to Mill Bay Shopping Centre. There is a bus stop at the terminal but ignore it as it rarely runs and even when it does, it’s there to drop off passengers and leave, so it’ll probably already be gone. Move as quickly as you can as you’ll likely be cutting it a bit close for the next step.

At Mill Bay Shopping Centre, take the next transit bus to Duncan. Unfortunately the exact bus number keeps changing. It used to be that the bus would go directly to Duncan. Currently the bus switches number at Valley View Centre in Cobble Hill. If this is still the case when you decide to go, you can step outside for a few minutes if you’d like and then get back on when it’s ready to do the return trip. Get a bus schedule while on the bus if you don’t have one yet. Currently the bus to and from Valley View Center and Duncan is the number 10.

Getting back is similar but there are a few differences. First off, the layover at Valley View Centre is shorter, so stay on the bus. If you don’t want to visit Mill Bay Shopping Centre, it might be worth checking the schedule and see if the bus goes to or closer to the Mill Bay Ferry Terminal. Currently on the Brentwood Bay side, the bus going downtown stops closer to the ferry terminal than the one heading from downtown, though the trade off is you’ll likely have a bit of a wait for the bus. Finally, depending on how late you head home, the 75 might terminate at Royal Oak Exchange or at least change numbers there. If the former, you’ll have a lot of other buses to choose from.

Bears in Kitimat

A number of times I’ve seen bears in Kitimat. One experience wasn’t pleasant and unfair to the bear in question so I don’t think I’ll tell that story. But once I was skipping along some rocks near a stream and I turned around and realized I was entertaining some bear. While I was probably at least partly afraid, I must admit I was more embarrassed that I had been spotted doing something silly, even if it was by a bear. Another time I was at the dump bottle collecting and I found myself accidently within touching range of a bear eating garbage. Happily, children in Kitimat are taught how to react if they encounter a bear, so I turned around and walked quickly but not aggressively away from the dump.

The First Time I Tried Kahlua

There were a few years where I would travel from Nanaimo or Victoria to Kitimat to visit/stay with my parents. It seemed like every second flight would divert from the Terrace-Kitimat Airport to Prince Rupert. One year the plane was particularly late; three hours I think. Consequently everyone was offered free drinks. Oddly enough most people on the plane were not taking advantage of this. Me, I wasn’t that particularly big a drinker, but I saw a fun opportunity here. Checking to make sure I had my BCID on me, I ordered the strongest drink they had, which proved to be Kahlua. Now Kahlua under any circumstances tastes nice, but Kahlua at a high altitude was a revelation. I think they might have been one of the flights that got diverted to Prince Rupert, but either way, it wasn’t long before the delays did not bother me one bit. I’ve since had Kahlua a number of times, but never has it enhanced my mood as well as it did while flying to Kitimat.

My First Days in Kitimat

I first arrived in Kitimat with my mom on October 31, 1978, my dad having gone on ahead. In hindsight, this being Halloween should have been a sign of things to come, as was the flooding. That year it rained so hard that shortly after we rode the bus from the Terrace-Kitimat Airport to Kitimat, Kitimat Bridge got taken out of commission by the flooding. Luckily some neighbours helped us with cutlery and foam mattresses until our stuff could make it to Kitimat. That proved less than typical of Kitimat. I recall going trick or treating there that night and that went okay. The next day or soon after another kid saw me and asked me if I was retarded. Then I arrived at my elementary school (Roy Wilcox, which just closed down less than a month ago) and I had the sense that everyone was glaring at me. This unfortunately proved to me more typical of Kitimat behaviour. Water under the Kitimat Bridge now? Yes and no. Specific incidents don’t bother me so much now, but it’s true that growing up there taught me less than adequate social skills in some ways, something I struggle with to this day.

My First Roger Moore James Bond Movie

As a teen, having just watched a few Sean Connery Bond films, I rented the Man with the Golden Gun with Roger Moore. Now, the Connery films do have their tongue in cheek aspects, but there’s a serious undertone to them for the most part. On the other hand, The Man with the Golden Gun was Bond at its campiest, not helped with scenes of the over the top J.W. Pepper; Christopher Lee was decent as the main villain though. But the music and attempts at comedy really sunk it for me. Really, it’s a miracle I ever watched any more of Moore’s Bond. Even if I had made a different choice, though, it'd have still have been jolting. Connery is hard-edged, while Moore is pretty unconvincing as a killer (I do like his commentary tracks on the more recent Bond DVD releases, though). My point, therefore, is, when sampling the Moore-era Bond for the first time, don’t do so right after watching a few Connery Bond movies.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Real Scare During Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

I got a free pass for two for Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, though somehow I just couldn’t find anyone to join me. I went anyway, and late into the movie, during one of the gorier scenes, someone in the audience started having some sort of health problem. This put me in a very strange headspace because I was simultaneously trying to enjoy the slaughter on screen while getting concerned for the audience member. Thankfully unlike most of the characters in the movie, he was okay. It does comfort me, though that this proved that my mind differentiates quite readily the difference between someone being killed in a make-believe fashion, however realistic looking it may be, and someone in real life being in distress.

Cats at Duncan Pets

Some anecdotes regarding Duncan Pets, a pet store along the Trans-Canada Highway: Once I saw a cage with a cat beside a cage of budgies. The birds didn’t seem too comfortable. Another time a cat that was not in a cage was entertaining itself sitting in front of the budgie cage. In both cases I think the birds were actually pretty safe. Another time I bent down to pet a cat and he decided to climb onto my back and stay there a while. I actually got a little concerned because this left me a bit immobilized and I needed to be somewhere within the hour. Luckily he found another customer to greet soon enough.

Foody Goody’s/Royal Star Buffet in Victoria

One of the Foody Goody’s Chinese food buffet locations used to be on Government St in Victoria. The food tasted good but was strong enough that you risked indigestion there. Once during renovations they put up a sign that said, “Yes, Foody Goody’s is open during the construction. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

This Foody Goody’s apparently got bought out and became Royal Star buffet, though it was basically the same restaurant. I worked there as a dishwasher for about a month and one day we went out for drinks. At one point I lost track of the others and assumed everyone had gone home, so I did the same. The next day I worked the other dishwasher had a black eye. It turns out they had gotten into a fight and had I not gotten separated from the group, I’d have been expected to help out. Someone was looking out for me that day!

I got laid off not long after as the business was struggling. In fact it closed down permanently soon after I got laid off. Its location is now Canadian government offices.

Cats on Dunn St

When I lived on Dunn St in Kitimat, there were cats on either side of my house. The cat on my right was the older of the two, a Siamese named Molly. Molly would only drink out of a glass. My mom told me once that her owner said she could no longer jump on fences due to arthritis, whereupon Molly proceeded to do exactly that.

I can’t recall the breed of the other cat (Whiskey). I do recall he weas fond of taking lengthy vacations. But my favourite story about him was of the "at home" variety. We had budgies and one time I heard a tapping on the dining room window, which had a fence leading up to it. My mom moved the drapes and Whiskey was on the fence knocking to be left in, presumably to meet the birds.

Both cats had a territory war under one of our trees; given the yowling both were determined to defend their territory from the other cat. It was clear that there was some sort of land claim dispute happening, though both were agreeable to humans using their land.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Free Places to Visit in Seattle

This post covers various locations in Seattle and vicinity that you can visit for free. I may eventually cover places that are only free at certain times of the month. My previous post on aerial views covered three additional attractions: Kerry Park Viewpoint, Volunteer Park Observation Tower, and the downtown bridges.
The International Fountain
LOCATION: 305 Harrison St, Seattle Center
APPEAL: This half dome with water jets shoots water of various intensity and various directions while catchy music plays. People can play in the fountain without drowning due to the drainage, so it’s particularly popular with kids. Some of the water jets give the illusion of shooting higher than the Space Needle, and sometimes it even creates its own rainbow.
Plant Dinosaurs
LOCATION: N 34th and Phinney, Fremont
APPEAL: Wire mesh shaped like dinosaurs with plants growing inside
VI Lenin Statue
LOCATION: 600 N 36th St, Fremont
APPEAL: Larger than life statue of the Russian revolutionary in front of a fast food restaurant (formerly Taco del Mar). Also if you have a couple hundred thousand dollars, it’s for sale. Not sure if the price includes shipping. Sometimes this statue gets decorated, but not as frequently as Waiting for the Interurban (see below)
Fremont Rocket
LOCATION: 601 N 35th S, Fremont
APPEAL: Replica of a rocket on the side of a building
Center of the Universe
LOCATION: N 36th St at Fremont Ave N, Fremont
APPEAL: Sign post with distance in kilometres to various real and fictional places. Some real places are a few blocks away; some are half a world away
LOCATION: Fremont Bridge, near the Fremont Side
APPEAL: An “Easter Egg” for people crossing the bridge. One of the towers of the bridge has Rapunzel’s hair painted on it.
Waiting for the Interurban
LOCATION: N 34th and Fremont Ave N, Fremont
APPEAL: Statue of people waiting for a non-existent bus. Seattle’s most frequently dressed up statue
JP Patches & Gertrude: Late for the Interurban
LOCATION: N 34th, further away from Fremont Ave N than Waiting, Fremont
APPEAL: Statue devoted to the popular children’s TV show that aired on KCTS-9. [August 2012 update: it's too soon to tell how permanent this will be, but for now it's become a bit of a memorial for Chris Wedes, who played JP and who passed away July 22, 2012.]
Fremont Troll
LOCATION: N 36th & Troll Ave N (under Aurora Ave), Fremont
APPEAL: This statue of a troll under a bridge (Aurora) is made of concrete over an old Volkswagen
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
LOCATION: 3015 NW 54th St, Ballard
APPEAL: The locks let ships travel from freshwater to seawater and vice versa, with the water level being raised and lowered as needed for the ship passage. The best part of the locks is the fish ladder where you can watch salmon return to Lake Union.
Olympic Sculpture Park
LOCATION: 2901 Western Ave, Waterfront/Queen Anne
APPEAL: Oddball sculptures including a controversial naked father-son statue and an ampersand that rotates on a pole.
Discovery Park
LOCATION: 3801 W Government Way, Magnolia
Appeal: This is a huge park with lots of windy paths, beach access with lighthouse, and an Indian Cultural Center
Warren G. Magnusson Park
LOCATION: 7400 Sand Point Way E, Sand Point
APPEAL: Nice beaches, large off-leash area for dogs. Also, on the north end you can peer through the bushes and see the Sound Garden, pipes that make sounds when the wind blows (you can get closer to the Sound Garden if you get mission from the government agency right beside Magnusson.
Seward Park
LOCATION: 5902 Lake Washington Blvd S, Seward Park
APPEAL: Nice beach, decent hiking, nice views of Mercer Island
Downtown Park
LOCATION: 10201 NE 4th St, Bellevue West
APPEAL: Has a nice large fountain. If you’re in Bellevue, gets you away from the business of the city proper.
Alki Beach Park
LOCATION: 1702 Alki Ave SW, West Seattle
APPEAL: Very popular beach with nice view of Seattle proper. It has a “bath house” (used for arts and crafts, not bathing), the Birthplace of Seattle marker, and a mini Statue of Liberty.
Washington State Convention Center
LOCATION: 800-701 Pike St, downtown
APPEAL: It has lots of nice art on various floors. Note that while the common areas are free, events held at the center may have a charge.
Freeway Park
LOCATION: 700 Seneca St, downtown
APPEAL: This is a park built over a freeway, with various fountains
Occidental Park
LOCATION: Occidental Ave. S and S Main St., Pioneer Square
APPEAL: Despite the lack of greenery and being skid row, there are some nice art pieces here including a firemen memorial. Art shows are sometimes held here.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
LOCATION: 319 2nd Ave S, Pioneer Square
APPEAL: This is actually a free museum, not a park; it has nice displays of history
Waterfall Garden Park
LOCATION: 219 2nd Ave S, Pioneer Square
APPEAL: This is a nice enclosed, well, waterfall garden park.
Gas Works Park
LOCATION: 2101 N Northlake Way, Wallingford
APPEAL: This is a bizarre full-size park overlooking Lake Union. What makes it unusual is that it very obviously was once an industrial complex, with lots of the structures still present.

I Went to Every Dance at Malaspina

I was only at Malaspina College (later Malaspina University College, now Vancouver Island University) for just one year. Like most colleges they had stuff like dances for the students. There was a dance early on in the 1991-1992 school year; I decided I wouldn’t go to every dance of the school year but I would go to that one. Well, things got a bit rowdy. People started fighting (someone got knocked into me but otherwise I was able to stay out of the fights) and the police got called in. As a result, every dance for the remainder of the school year got cancelled. So despite only going to the one dance, I went to every dance of my school year at Malaspina.

Billboard Juxtapositions on the Pat Bay Highway

Don’t look for these now because it’s been a few years, but I found these two billboard juxtapositions on the Pat Bay Highway to be funny. One sign that read “Pregnant? We Can Help” was directly to the right of a funeral home billboard. In the case of another sign (and I don’t mean to trivialize a serious issue but rather simply note the placement of the billboard), there was a sign protesting seal hunting, and behind it was the golden arches of the nearby McDonald’s. If your sense of humour isn’t too dark you might not find these funny, but my sense of humour runs a bit dark, so I found these cute.

I’m Still Haunted by This

There's a two-week period coming up where I won't be able to post anything, so I'm doing a number of bonus posts today. This one'sa particularly sad one.

When I went to northwest Community College in Terrace there was this woman taking classes who hung out with the guy next door. She wore maybe a bit too much make up, but still was still quite attractive. Very friendly, diplomatic. I did overhear her talking once and knew she had some serious esteem issues where math was concerned, but we all get frustrated by stuff and I assumed she was just going through a rough spell.

It turns out her self esteem issues ran deeper than anyone could have guessed. The next school year I found out she had hung herself. Now I didn’t know her that well, but since she visited the dorms regularly to talk to her friend, I had taken a liking to her. She was real nice and whatever she was facing, her basically good nature probably would have given her the support network she had needed. I wish I could have gotten to know her better, though I’m not vain enough to believe that that alone would have guaranteed her survival.

She’s been dead now for over 15 years. Had she not killed herself, whatever she was facing would probably have seemed like distance memories to her now, however unpleasant they were. I’m still haunted that this good woman found things so unbearable that she chose to suffocate herself to death rather than carry on.

My Most Surreal Work Story (Kind of)

At the time of the dream I was a university student who was working as a dishwasher for a restaurant.

I was woken up in my dorm by the phone ringing. I glanced at my clock while picking up the phone. It was the restaurant claiming I’d missed a shift. I told them that I wasn’t scheduled to work that day. They checked and got back on the phone and told me that the scheduled had been changed. It was covered but they reminded me that I was to work that coming Friday. I went back to sleep.

I woke up again and realized I wasn’t supposed to be working on Friday. I was just about to call work back when I looked at my clock. The time was earlier than it was when I last looked at the clock. I then realized that everything I just described in the 2nd paragraph had been a dream, one where everything in my place was physically where it should be. If not for the fact that I happened to glance at my clock in my dream, I would have made that phone call and probably caused everyone at work to think I had gone crazy! Well, actually, I am crazy. Just not that type of crazy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Greedy Duck at Elk Lake

I was sitting on the main beach having lunch at Elk Lake when a female mallard duck came up to me for food. Normally I don’t feed the ducks but this day I was feeling generous. The first time or two when I tried to give her a piece, she jumped on me when her legs rapidly moving, so I got ticklish and that didn’t work. Then I managed to give her a little. I was going to give her more still, but instead of going for the piece I wanted to give her, she went for the bulk of my remaining sandwich instead. Her greed cost her. I might have given her a few more smaller pieces but because she tried to steal the rest of the sandwich, she ended up getting no more food from me. When begging for free food, a little humility will carry the day more than being aggressive.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Othello Memories

Both of these recollections referring to the game so don’t expect any Shakespeare. For those of you who don’t know the game, it involves a board full of squares and playing pieces that are black on one side and white on the other. One player is black, the other white, and the object is to turn as many pieces of your opponent’s your colour as possible.

Both of these happened in the same time period, late 1992. For a while I was really into the game and was playing people in dorms. One player had lost to me a few times but this time was winning, very close to winning in fact. I was running out of moves. Finally I tried a tactic that normally would be a bad idea (it’s been so long ago that I can’t describe the tactic, unfortunately). Bizarrely from then on in the game I was able to make it so my opponent either couldn’t make any moves or only have one move, which would be beneficial to me of course. So I won a game that I really should have lost. He played better than me; I got lucky.

Feeling like hot stuff from beating people all the time I was beginning to feel like hot stuff. But then I went home for Christmas and played Othello on my Atari 2600 game system. If you don’t know, the Atari 2600 was one of the old home video game systems, with primitive graphics. In fact Atari’s game pieces where squares instead of the circles they should have been (actually in this instance they probably had the tech to make circles if they really wanted to; other games’ graphics, while limited, could create , say, a passable Popeye for that game). Even in 1992 the Atari 2600 was considered very obsolete. So the number of moves that an Othello game cartridge could be programmed with was probably limited. Despite this, when I played the Atari Othello on the intermediate level, the game system proceeded to soundly defeat me. This Atari game cartridge had shown me my true place in the universe as an Othello player.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Cheap and High Adventure Way to get from Victoria to Seattle

Here’s a fun and low cost way (in $US) to get from Victoria, BC to Seattle, WA and back. I’ll describe it in a narrative before summarizing things in 2011 times/prices using a handy chart. This method only works if you do not have a car. A bicycle should work but note that it involves transit busses, and most can only handle a few bikes at a time. It also works best on weekdays. It may work after a fashion on Saturdays, but it’ll be a much later trip. Sunday it won’t work at all.

In Victoria, first, head to the Coho ferry terminal, near the Parliament Buildings. The ship leaves at 6:10 am but you should be there at 5:40 due to Customs; cost is $16.50. As the ferry gets close to Port Angeles, go to the foot passenger exit early so you’ll be off the ferry sooner. Head to Gateway Transit Center, a short walk left from the terminal on the Port Angeles side. You’ll want to 30 Commuter bus to Sequim (all the busses here will be Clallum Transit; your cost will be $1.50). The ferry arrives a little before 8 am and I like to catch a bus at 8, but if you want to linger around Port Angeles, you can take the 8:30 or 9 busses.
If you’re unfamiliar with Sequim, get off at Sequim Transit Center, as that’s where you’ll make your next connecting bus. If you haven’t had breakfast yet, Sequim will be your last chance to do so. If you took the 8 or 8:30 busses, you have time to explore Sequim for a little bit. Otherwise, stay close by, as your connecting bus will be leaving in about a quarter of an hour. At 9:43 take the 8 Port Townsend bus. Pay $2.50 and get a day pass. Once you reach Port Townsend’s Park & Ride, immediately switch to the 11 bus (still Jefferson).

Here you have two options. Once is cheaper and offers a nicer view of Seattle upon arrival, but makes for a much later day. The other costs a little more but will get you to Seattle a lot sooner. If you go the cheaper route, spend most of the day exploring Port Townsend, which is to be sure a very beautiful city with great architecture. Making sure you’re back at the Park & Ride a little after 3 pm. Then take the 7 bus at 3:20 to Poulsbo, still using your day pass. At Poulsbo’s Transit Center you won’t have too much time, though you might have time for a brief look at the shopping area there. Get on the 90 bus (Kitsap Transit to Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal; $2). You’ll probably have a little time to wander around. From the terminal, take the ferry to Seattle (free on the way over).

The quicker way is once you get off the 11 Shuttle in downtown Port Townsend, head straight to the ferry terminal (there’s a stop right by it). Take the ferry ($2.75) to Keystone, Whidbey Island. From there take the 6 bus to Coupeville Park & Ride (Island Transit; this system doesn’t charge riders). You’ll have a little less than half an hour to wander around; grab a bite in the area if you can. On the opposite side of the street, at 12:27, take the 1 bus (still Island Transit, thus free) to Clinton Ferry Terminal and take a free (that direction) bus to Mukilteo. Head straight for the nearest bus stop and take the 113 bus (Community Transit $1.75) to Lynnwood Transit Center. You’ll have about a quarter of an hour there. At 3:03 there, transfer to the 511 bus (Sound Transit; $3.50 or $1.75 with ORCA card) to downtown Seattle.

Returning from Seattle is similar to heading to Seattle using the cheapest way, but there are differences. Take the 6:10 ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge (or the earlier one in the chart below), but this time it’s $7.10, not free. Take the 90 bus to Poulsbo and get on the 7 bus there, but don’t go all the way to Port Townsend or you’ll miss your connection. Instead get off at 4-Corners and wait across the street for the 8 bus to Sequim. Transfer to the 30 bus to Port Angeles, explore and have breakfast there, and then take the 12:45 Coho ferry back to Victoria.

In summary:
Victoria to Port Angeles: Coho ferry 6:10-7:50ish – $16.50
Gateway Transit Center, Port Angeles to Sequim Transit Center: Clallum 30: 8-8:35 OR 8:30-9:05 OR 9-9:35 $1.50
Sequim Transit Center to Port Townsend Park & Ride: Jefferson 8: 9:43-10:30 $2.50 Day pass
Port Townsend Park & Ride to Port Townsend Ferry Terminal: Jefferson 11 10:30-10:40ish

Port Townsend Ferry Terminal to Keystone Ferry Terminal - ferry 11:15-11:50 $2.75
Keystone ferry terminal to Coupeville Park & Ride: Island Transit 6 12:00-12:18 free
Coupeville Park & Ride to Clinton Ferry Terminal: Island Transit 1 12:27-1:20 free
Clinton Ferry Terminal to Mukilteo Ferry Terminal - ferry: 1:30-1:50 free
Mukilteo Ferry Terminal to Lynnwood Transit Center: Community Transit 113 1:57-2:48 $1.75
Lynnwood Transit Center to 3rd Ave & Pike, Seattle: Sound Transit 511 3:03-3:37 $3.50 ($1.75 with ORCA card)
Head back to Port Townsend Park & Ride (11 Shuttle, walk, etc)
Port Townsend Park & Ride to Poulsbo Transit Center: Jefferson 7: 3:20-4:23 – use above pass
Poulsbo Transit Center to Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal: Kitsap 90: 4:37-4:57 $2
Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal to Seattle Ferry Terminal: ferry: 5:30-6:05 free
Seattle Ferry Terminal to Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal: ferry 5:30-6:05 OR 6:10-6:45 $7.10
Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal to Poulsbo: Kitsap 90: 6:15-6:35 OR 6:57-7:20 $2
Poulsbo Transit Center to 4-Corners: Jefferson 7: 7:30-8:24 $2.50 day pass
4-Corners to Sequim Transit Center: Jefferson 8: 8:45-9:21 – use above pass
Sequim Transit Center to Gateway Transit Center, Port Angeles: 9:43-10:20 $1.50
Port Angeles to Victoria: Coho ferry 12:45-2:15ish

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Seagulls that Broke the Ice

I was on a temporary assignment in an office and hadn’t gotten to know the other staff in the area that well. It was a particular warm day so I wanted to open my window. My cubicle had apparently been vacant for a while so the window was jammed pretty such. Finally, I got it open but doing so caused a woodchip to fly off the ledge. A seagull showed up, apparently thinking I had just tossed out some food. A few moments later more seagulls showed up and had quite the fight over the non-existent food, none realizing they were really waging war over an inedible slice of wood. Everyone with a cubicle/office in the area came into my cubicle to watch the birds fight on my ledge. After getting this rather unusual thing to start talking about it became very easy to talk to the other staff there and I’m still friends with some of them. Thank you gulls, if you’re still alive out there.

Good Places for Aerial Views of Seattle

[UPDATED July 4, 2015]

I visit Seattle at least once a year, sometimes twice, so I have lots of tips for doing so. My first installment of these is on aerial views of the city. All are worth a visit, some more so than others. Some are mentioned in all Seattle guide books, but at least one is mentioned in none. This information came from a cheat sheet I make for friends going to Seattle

Kerry Park Viewpoint
LOCATION: 211 W Highland Dr, Queen Anne District
PROS: Free. View is mostly unobstructed. Open dawn to dusk
CONS: Up a very steep hill. View is only one direction (facing Seattle Center and downtown)

Volunteer Park Observation Tower
LOCATION: 1247 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill area
PROS: Free. Views on every side of tower
CONS: Up a narrow windy staircase. Views are only from a series of windows (covered in wire mesh, not glass), so you have to go from window to window to get a view. Also the wire mesh is hard to keep out of photos unless you zoom quite a bit. Due to the mesh, this is my least favourite aerial view

Downtown bridges
LOCATION: Downtown core: Ferry Terminal to 2nd Ave, Macy's to parking lot, Pacific Place to Nordstrom
PROS: Free. These are easily overlooked by other tourists as a photo op, so you’ll get photos that many other tourists won’t. Macy's has nice glass displays inside. Ferry terminal bridge available 24 hours, view unobstructed.
CONS: None are that high up, only two directions to really see (west and east).

Space Needle
LOCATION: 400 Broad St, Seattle Center
PROS: If you get a CityPass, two visits are included. 360 degrees, and open air. This is the best view of the Monorail route, Seattle Center, and some of the news headquarters.
CONS: This is actually the lowest of the pay locations, and also the priciest. Due to protective metal you have to zoom a little for the best shots.

SkyView Observatory at Columbia Center
LOCATION: 73rd-701 5th Ave, Downtown
PROS: Tallest view (73rd or so story). Very nice view of downtown/Pioneer District area, unobstructed due to clear glass.
CONS; Due to proximity of Smith Tower, some overlap with the view there; not quite 360 degrees (270 I think).
NOTE: I had previously listed this at inexpensive but the price subsequently jumped up ($5 in 2011 to $14.25 in 2015; however it is now open weekends.
Smith Tower
LOCATION: 1021-506 2nd Ave, Pioneer Square District
PROS: You get a discount if you were at Underground Tour earlier. Open air, highest up 360 degree view of the city. Nice views of downtown/Pioneer District
CONS: Again, some overlap with the taller Columbia Center due to proximity. You have to zoom due to protective metal. Smith Tower sometimes closes for special events.
NOTE: Closed for renovations in 2015.
Kerry, Space Needle, Smith, Columbia all offer views of Mt Rainier when the weather cooperates, both in terms of rain and forest fires.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Gully in Kitimat

“Monday’s” blog post is a half day early because I’m away Mon-Tues. Likewise I’ll either post a late blog posting on Tuesday or two on Wednesday.

Lots of stories to follow about Kitimat, where I grew up, most not that pleasant. But this one’s a fun one. There’s this short cut in down into a gully between Dunn St (the street I lived on) and Lahakas. Lots of luscious greenery, though almost impossible to travel through the path in the winter due to the deep snow. The Dunn St section is between people’s property so I don’t know if you can still access it. This being a gully shortcut there were lots of skunk cabbage. A couple of bridges.

Once I was running along one of the bridges, the one closest to the Dunn St side, this one made of a series of wooden tiles. One tile broke while I was running over it and I shot forward, having only time to mutter “Oh @#$%” (the f word I think) before landing. The skin on my arms and legs actually melted very slightly from the friction of landing and I was still picking out wood from my arm days later. Nothing broken but one night I forget to roll up the sleeve of my pyjamas and found them affixed to my arm, so I had to peel them off the arm under running water. And yes, getting back to the first paragraph, by Kitimat standards this constitutes one of my more fun memories of the town.

Years later, a car (a taxi from what my dad recalled) drove down into the gully from the Lahakas. For the new few years I got a free lesson on how a car erodes in a gully over time. Quite fascinating to watch the disintegration process. Given that in the years I saw it it was never removed, I’m betting it’s still there.

One time on the Lahakas side I was about to enter the gully and there was a bird in front of the entrance. I never figured out the kind of bird. Maybe some kind of owl. It was on the ground. Each time I tried to enter the gully it hissed at me and blocked my entrance, even though I towered over it. I was actually more afraid of accidently hurting the bird then being hurt, though with the hindsight of many years past that bird probably could have done some damage with its beat and claws. I was amused by the bravery of this bird, though I also wanted to head home. Happily just by waiting off to the side for a few minutes the would-be guardian of the path disappeared and I was able to go home.

I haven’t been to Kitimat since 1995 but if I ever return, I’ll visit that gulley, plugging my nose at the skunk cabbage and taking photos of that car in whatever state it's now in.

Getting Propositioned in Victoria, BC, Canada vs. Madrid, Spain

I’ve only been propositioned by prostitutes twice (I declined both times) and the two times are in start contrast with one another.

In the case of Victoria, I was walking along Government St. some time in the late 1990s to 2001 and a woman in front of me looked back and started smiling. I was a bit more na├»ve back then and thought she looked vaguely familiar so I smiled back. She let me catch up and said hi. I said hi back, wondering where I knew her from. She then asked “Want some company?” Luckily I did know enough to decipher that bit of code so that ended that.

Forward ahead to 2002. In Madrid, Spain the hostel I stayed was in a park called Retiro Park. A guide book described the park as being a red light district in the evening. I agree except for the last three words. It pretty much always is. I did see a lot of street people along the main drag (some may have even been in drag) but those left me alone. But after I had checked out I was in the park again just to wander around, after having gone to Lisbon in the meantime. A woman called me over and finally I got curious. She asked me where I was from. I said Canada. She said she was from Nigeria. I had no idea where this was going so I just let this hang there. A moment later she said, “Let’s have sex, right here!”

It was quite the stark contrast between the euphemism in Victoria and the bluntness of Madrid, though neither did their intended, uh, trick. I’m guessing the former was due to the law and the latter was to avoid any language barrier, which there certainly was none of. Something to be said for both approaches, probably.