Stories

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Rooms with a view of history at the Wing Luke Asian Museum. Feb. 17, 11:17 a.m. ¶ Imagine life around this Chinatown intersection in 1910. Asian immigrants who came to work in the canneries, farms and neighborhood businesses rented rooms in a hotel that occupied the top floors of the East Kong Yick building, the current home of the Wing Luke Asian Museum. ¶ This week I toured the restored 100-year-old building and stepped into the austere living spaces and common areas where the laborers socialized. The dark rooms still feel inhabited by the souls of the early settlers. A Chinese newspaper lays on a bed and shoes are tucked under it. ¶ The visit made me ponder my own immigration experience. I didn't have fellow Spaniards to socialize with in California, but I had the privilege of settling into a company-paid condo for a month. And it was sunny all the time.

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The sky is the limit at Jimi Hendrix Park. Jan. 27, 12:24 p.m. ¶ I met Carver Gayton at the Northwest African American Museum Wednesday afternoon. The retired executive director of the museum had just finished a meeting with The Friends of Jimi Hendrix Park committee, a grass-roots initiative to improve the park next to the museum. A former parking lot, it is now a field of grass with great views of the city but little sign of the iconic Seattle musician for whom it was named in 2006. ¶ Hendrix's statue on Capitol Hill may be moved here to help in that regard. Even though I had come to sketch the museum exhibit "East by Northwest," I waited for a chance to ask Gayton about the statue's possible relocation. ¶ He was very gracious and even let me do a sketch while we talked. We walked over the wet grass and sat in the middle of the park under clear skies and unseasonably warm January weather. It's a beautiful location. On my sketch, you can see the old Colman School building (built in 1909) in the background, where the museum occupies the first floor. ¶ Moving Hendrix's statue to the park is just one of the things they're looking at, he explained. "By moving it here, it's coming closer to where his roots were, physically closer to the home where he lived, to the schools he attended," he said. ¶ Gayton said there could also be concerts or a garden. "The sky is the limit, let's hear what the community has to say." ¶ This evening they are holding an open house here to gather community input about the future of the park. "The goal is to reflect, in a more distinct way, the essence of what Jimmy Hendrix is about," he said. ¶ Gayton is a prominent figure in Seattle for his civic involvement and family history -- he is the grandson of some of the first black settlers in Seattle who arrived in the late 1800s.

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A view of Seattle from the water, rowing in Lake Union. Aug. 18, 7:25 a.m. ¶ The first time Evan Jacobs came to Seattle from Southern California in the mid 90s, Lake Union was an unexpected discovery. "There's no other bigger open space in the city. You can come here and be by yourself," he said as we watched the city come to life from a 28-foot double-seater scull early Tuesday morning. Other rowers went by and a couple of float planes landed while I sketched the striking view. ¶ Jacobs, 36, now calls Seattle home and the lake his training ground, where he rows for 90 minutes every morning before heading to his job as software programmer at Amazon. This Saturday he'll be racing in the Great Cross Sound Race between Alki Beach and Bainbridge island, which he has won the last three years. "It's a really wonderful event with a mass start of more than 50 human-powered boats," he said. ¶ An international rower and member of Lake Washington Rowing Club, Jacobs recommends everyone in Seattle practice at least one water sport. And he is obviously partial to rowing. "I like the culture, the movement... the feeling of the boat going fast above the water. It's a magical sensation," he said. ¶ During the crash course, Jacobs taught me how to "feather the oar" -- control the movement of the paddle -- to avoid "catching a crab" -- rowing speak for sinking the oar. I think I didn't do too bad, only caught a crab two or three times. "At the end you were sort of a natural," he said. ¶ Maybe I should think seriously about taking a rowing class. But, wait, I just had one! Let's go rowing again!

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Barça and Sounders make Seattle feel like home. Aug. 5, 2009. ¶ It's been so long since I went to my last Barça game: almost ten years! I watched them defeat Italian team Fiorentina 4 to 2 in a qualifying UEFA Champions League match on Sept. 22, 1999. My American girlfriend at the time, now wife, and I sat in one of the rows farthest from the field in the huge Camp Nou stadium. I could barely see the players, let alone sketch them. ¶ Things were quite different for me on today's game. I was much closer to the field, right behind one of the goals in fact, as part of the media. But a lot felt the same way. ¶ Stepping on the light rail to go to the stadium was like taking the subway in Barcelona. The crowd wearing soccer jerseys and the roar of the Sounder fans, cheering their team for the entire 90 minutes of play, was like going to any game in Barcelona. What a great experience, here, in Seattle. ¶ Drawing at the game was a new thing for me though. For a moment I thought I should be in the bleachers. But then I heard someone yell from behind: "Hey, sketcher!" Big Lo, aka Seattle's biggest sport fan, told me how much he liked my work. I was flattered. If Big Lo says so, maybe it doesn't hurt to let a sketcher in the game every now and then. "When are you going to sketch the Seahawks?" he asked. I'm ready to mark my calendar. ¶ I bought one of the half-Barça, half-Sounders scarves many people were wearing today as soon as I arrived at the stadium. I couldn't have imagined anything better for this Barcelonian transplanted to Seattle. Ryan Sales was also wearing one. "I'd like to see Messi score and the Sounders win," he said after having someone take his photo in front of the giant inflatable soccer ball set up next to Qwest Field. ¶ Sales got half of his wish and I got mine, seeing Barça win and adding a new team to my scarf. Go Sounders!

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Noise as art from the Fremont Bridge. July 30, 10:23 a.m. ¶ Seattle artist Kristen Ramirez has been working from an unusual studio since last May. As artist-in-residence for the Seattle Department of Transportation, she has set up shop in the northeast tower of the historic Fremont bridge, which opened in 1917. Her project: to create an audio show that people can listen to while they wait in their cars when the bridge is open. This happens an average of 35 times a day, making it one of the busiest drawbridges in the world. ¶ From birds singing and sailboats honking to the bells of the rails coming down and the sound of the bridge going up, Ramirez has recorded all sorts of noises from the tower, which was used as storage until the renovation of the bridge two years ago. In addition to that, people have been calling a special phone line to leave their memories about the bridge. "They are lovely stories," Ramirez said. In one voice message, a man tells the story of a woman who hid behind one of the steel girders and went up with the bridge on the day of her 75th birthday. "There's also a story about a man who proposed to his wife on the bridge," said Ramirez. ¶ The resulting sound collage will be ready by mid September, when Ramirez will wrap up her residency with a big celebration of the bridge. Flags will be waving and music will be playing. Ramirez will post signs with a phone number to call to listen to the completed audio piece. ¶ This is not the first public art project associated with the bridge's towers, explains Lori Patrick, spokesperson for the city's Arts and Cultural Affairs office, which commissioned Ramirez. In the 1990s, Rodman Gilder Miller's neon "Rapunzel" and "Elephant and Child" were installed in the bridge's northern towers, where they remain. Ramirez's 5-month long project has a $20,000 budget that comes from the Seattle Department of Transportation's one-percent art fund. ¶ You can track Ramirez's progress at her blog The Bridge Report, where she also posted a picture of me while I did the sketch.

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Iconic PEMCO clock hits 100 degrees while I sketch it. July, 29. 2:58 p.m. ¶ The iconic PEMCO building clock hit 100 degrees at 2:58 p.m. this afternoon, a tie of the all-time high temperature recorded in Seattle in 1941 and 1994. A new record of 103 degrees was recorded later today at the airport. ¶ I was almost done with my sketch and ready to give up on drawing the "100" when the three digits finally showed up. Jon Osterberg, a marketing communications manager at the insurance company, was also on the street ready to take a photo that he planned to use for the company newsletter. "We might never see this again," he said. ¶ Before I did the sketch I had been up on the roof of the building with PEMCO's property manager Mike Mitchell and assistant engineer Ed Davis. They make sure the two 5 feet by 10 feet clocks --one facing north and another one facing south-- are always functioning. "If it goes down for any period of time our phones start ringing," Mitchell said. The clocks are highly visible from I-5 and Capitol Hill buildings facing west. ¶ The first thing residents in those apartments do when they get up in the morning is look at the clock, explained Paul Chen, PEMCO's chief engineer. He said they get multiple callers when something doesn't seem right. Chen said the building got its first clock back in the mid 1980s and the current ones, which are controlled from a PC and can display graphics, were installed in 2005. ¶ As hot as it was during my walk around town today -- I'll post more sketches tomorrow -- I find these temperatures more bearable than the humid summer months on the East Coast, where I was three years ago. But I may be the exception.

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Memorial Day Parade in Mill Creek. May 25, 1:34 p.m. ¶ From Februrary of 2007 to June of 2008 Dexter Holmes, 66, turned a tree stump he found on the road into a memorial to American troops fighting wars overseas. Dexter's son Brent is currently stationed in Afghanistan and was in Iraq when his dad started working on it. "I did it while I was praying for my son," he said. ¶ Dexter led yesterday's Memorial Day Parade in Mill Creek, the first one the city organizes. He came down from Marysville with his neighbor Donald Hendrickson, 86, a World War II veteran who fought in the South Pacific. ¶ I enjoyed talking to both after the parade was over. Don was deployed with the Army from 1943 to 1945. His memories of combat have been coming back recently. "It's never positive, it's always negative things you remember."

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Time with Real Change hawker well spent. April 24, 10:02 a.m. ¶ I had just missed my bus home last night when a booming voice drew my attention. "Real Change paper here, folks! Brand new issue! Ink still wet!" ¶ I bought a copy from the street vendor and we chatted about the publication. With great pride, he told me it was an award-winning newspaper, something I just happened to know from reading this story by Maureen O'Hagan a few days ago. ¶ I told him I worked for a newspaper too and his eyes lit up. I said I'd like to draw him for this blog and he was thrilled. Because I was pressed for time and needed to catch another bus, he suggested meeting today. I managed to do a quick sketch of him doing his signature sales pitch but I also took him up on the offer. We met again this morning by the Starbucks near Westlake Center. ¶ His name is Norm Terry and he told me the secret of selling newspapers: "I have a big mouth, people can hear me from three blocks away." ¶ Norm was born in Rochester, NY, 58 years ago. His dad was Italian and his mother was "a full-blooded Indian Mohawk," he says. "I had a beautiful childhood," he adds, choking up with emotion. ¶ After dealing with mental illness and drugs, he got his life back on track. He has been selling the newspaper for eight years. It's not a very lucrative business. "My brother is a patent attorney in Sydney, Australia. He makes $10,000 a week," he said. "On a good day, I make $30." But he is really grateful for Real Change. The newspaper has been helping the poor and homeless in Seattle since 1994. ¶ Norm calls himself a former hippie. "The pretty girls who pass by tell me I look like Mick Jagger, you think so?" he asks me. ¶ Yeah, I really do! And we both laughed.