“It’s a little rough and tumble,” says artist Gala Bent of the light-filled Ballard abode where she lives with husband and fellow artist Zack Bent and their three boys (Caspar, 4, Solomon, 6, and Ezra, 8). Since moving here in 2006 from Indiana (so Zack could attend the M.F.A. program at the University of Washington), the couple has rented the middle floor of this 1920s farmhouse turned triplex.
"Do you want any soda with that?” Kris Minta, the owner of Spine and Crown used bookstore on Capitol Hill, asks as he pours three fingers of bourbon into a paper cup. It is a hot June night, and Minta is throwing a going-out-of-business party in the snug Pine Street space he shares with the éminence grise of rare and out-of-print record stores, Wall of Sound. The room is crowded and buzzes with an indie vibe that I thought had been destroyed by suicide, heroin addiction and way too much money. There are about 23 bedraggled beards in the room and tattoos without number; most everyone holds a paper cup or can of Rainier beer. A street magician—emphasis on street—pulls a piece of rope from behind the ear of an uncertain, bespectacled little girl. Sahir, an 18-year-old Spine and Crown regular, asks me what I think about T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I look at him as though he is from one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter—and he is—a wunderkind dressed in a Vietnam-era army jacket and on his way to Swarthmore in the fall. The street magician drops an F-bomb, his 14th of the night, as he circulates his donation cup. A musician fiddles with his amp, and an artist lays a large cardboard cutout of an insect in the center of the room for the next performance. Half the crowd spills out onto Pine Street for fresh air. Sahir complains that his fellow students at The Northwest School are boring because they only read the writers you would expect them to read, like Michael Chabon. The bourbon burns in my chest, and I think, goddamn it, I’m going to miss this place.But all things must pass, as George Harrison mournfully observed—and this is especially true for Seattle’s used bookstores, which are shutting down at a steady clip, with more than a few big hits in the past year. And with their demise, we lose more than a place to pick up a $2 copy of The Hunger Games. Seattle has long been an excellent place for bookstores, both new and used. Consistently voted among the most literate cities in the U.S., it is the home of a vibrant literary culture and has a storied history of independent bookstores. From Seattle Arts & Lectures to the Richard Hugo House, our city has been a place where both writers and readers thrive, and even prosper. Used bookstores, once as common as Dale Chihuly chandeliers, have played an integral part in our ecosystem of the written word and the city’s culture. Part symposium, part nerd refuge, the used bookstore was and is a place to meet other readers, discover books you never knew you wanted to read and—strange as it may sound—experience the sometimes tragic lives of a book’s past. Buying used books is like buying vintage anything—whether it is scrounging for emerald green Manolo Blahnik pumps at Sell Your Sole or stumbling upon an Eames lounge chair in its original black leather at Area 51—the quest is as important as the purchase. “Looking for books was all about the thrill of the hunt, but that’s gone,” says John Erdmann, a former Seattle used book scout and now a faculty librarian at the College of Marin in northern California. “Now you can find anything you want instantly on online book sites, such as AbeBooks or Alibris. If you’ve been searching for a first edition of Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces with a dust jacket in excellent condition, boom, you touch your smartphone, and—if you’re willing to pay [around $37]—the book is on your doorstep the next day.” (Above: Eleanor, a comfortable tenant at Twice Sold Tales on Capitol Hill)In the last year and a half, the steady disappearance of used bookstores accelerated with at least eight prominent closures—the Book Kennel, Renaissance Books, Inner Chapters, the Capitol Hill Half Price Books, Bookworm Exchange, Once Sold Tales, Balderdash Books and now, thanks to the purchase of the Melrose Building, Minta’s Spine and Crown—with no stores taking their places. “It has been a slaughter,” says Jamie Lutton, owner of Twice Sold Tales, a 26-year-old bookstore now located on the corner of Harvard Avenue East and Denny Way. Lutton’s shop, a fixture on Capitol Hill since 1987, has seen the rise and fall of many Seattle bookstores. The culprits behind the recent closures are many: theft, rents, the decline in reading, the rise of e-books and the buying and selling of used books online, which leads, of course, to that favorite nemesis of the used bookseller, Amazon. “People treat used bookstores as exhibit halls for online book-buying,” Lutton says. “[They] come in with their smartphones and check prices online.” No matter what one thinks of Amazon, it has been wildly effective at wiping out the competition—thanks to its demographic reach and massive used book inventory (via legions of private sellers). With Borders having declared bankruptcy and Barnes & Noble surviving by selling practically everything but books, Amazon is poised for total market domination. And that’s not including the used books of the future, i.e., e-book downloads. Between 2011 and 2012, e-books surpassed printed books in sales (with total mass-market paperback sales falling by 20.5 percent), and Amazon now squats on around three-quarters of the e-book market. All of which has a profound effect on the used books industry. “You are witnessing the death of probably 80 percent of all bookstores in this country,” says Twice Sold Tales’ Lutton.
Must SeeThe Metalsmith and the UrnThursday (10/3, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) — Lundgren Monuments hosts a new group exhibition of stunning cremation urns crafted by Pacific Northwest metalsmiths.
Must AdoptSeattle Animal Shelter Open House EventSaturday (10/5, noon to 6 p.m.) — Fifteen statewide animal shelters open up their cat- and dog-filled doors for an adoption extravaganza.
Must RunwayBellevue Collection Fashion Week(Through 9/29, times vary) — Bellevue Square merchants, Vogue and new this year, GQ, come together for a fashion extravaganza, including a men’s fashion show, a curated-by-Vogue runway show and a hair show from Seven Salon.
It turns out fake screaming is serious business. The online photo stream from EMP’s popular Scream Booth—where visitors to the ongoing Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film exhibit enter a dark, soundproof chamber and scream for an automatic camera—reveals the faces of thousands of people who have shrieked, to varying effect. While they’re all clearly having a blast, some look merely like they’re yawning, others appear to be saying “ahh” for the dentist and all too many are looking at themselves in the mirror (instead of at the camera), thereby eliminating any pretense of fear.
For Skate Like a Girl (SLAG) cofounder Fleur Larsen, the best part about teaching girls how to skateboard is opening them up to a whole new world of empowerment. “A lot of learning to skateboard is about trusting your body, taking healthy risks and learning in a community,” she says.
The autumn nip in the air means one thing—rain is coming. After a hot, dry summer, the shifting forecasts will provoke some grumbles, perhaps nowhere more audible than in Everett, where mudslides canceled 122 trips on Sound Transit’s Sounder north line last winter. For critics of the regional transportation authority (which operates rail and bus service in three central Puget Sound counties), in general, and Sounder, in particular, the seasonal pileups of mud, rocks and debris on the tracks seem like an apt metaphor.One day, Sounder may be part of an integrated transit system that moves hundreds of thousands of commuters at a reasonable cost and a faster pace than on congested roads. But, so far, the 34-mile Sounder north line, which links Seattle to Everett, is costing much more and being used far less than anybody expected. It was originally proposed as a six-train commuter service, on the existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway tracks, with six stops. But as costs shot up to $368 million from a projected $132 million, the agency cut back to four trains and four stations. About 1,100 riders use the line every weekday, far below the original forecast of 2,400–3,200 riders, for an average cost of $330,000 per rider.And here’s the kicker: Even after paying all that money up front, it still costs Sound Transit six times more to carry a rider from Everett to Seattle by train than by express bus, and the train doesn’t even stop anywhere in North Seattle, the area most likely to find ridership. Critics say that the line violates state law that allows commuter rail when its “costs per mile, including costs of trackage, equipment, maintenance, operations, and administration, are equal to or less than a bus following a parallel route.” By contrast, the Sounder south route, from Seattle to Tacoma, cost $55,000 per average weekday rider. That’s relatively cheap. Minneapolis–St. Paul paid about $135,000 per rider for its new commuter line. To be sure, unforeseen circumstances, including the recent recession, have contributed to reduced ridership and lower revenues, but poor negotiations are also part of the problem. Sound Transit originally estimated it would have to pay $65 million to use BNSF’s right-of-way for the Seattle-Everett route. The agency ended up paying $258 million for those rights. The agency also may have chosen an unnecessarily expensive technology for its rail system. The Sounder north line uses locomotives and coaches instead of a cheaper alternative called diesel multiple units (DMUs), which are essentially rail coaches with truck engines underneath the floor. Used by at least eight transit systems in the United States and Canada, DMUs are more economical because they consume less fuel and require fewer crew members. Tri-Rail, Miami’s commuter rail provider, which runs both DMU and conventional trains, has found that DMUs travel almost a mile on a gallon of fuel, while locomotives pulling a similar number of seats go less than half a mile per gallon.In June 2010, as Sound Transit was weighing new equipment purchases, an Ohio DMU manufacturer, US Railcar, offered its product for the north line, whose four locomotives and 12 coaches could then have been moved to the Sounder south line. The agency rejected the approach, choosing instead to acquire three more locomotives for the south line at roughly $5 million each. Sound Transit says the DMUs would be harder to maintain.The Citizen Oversight Panel (COP), an independent, 15-member panel of citizen volunteers appointed by Sound Transit, cautioned in a 2012 report with regard to the north line that the agency “may have to come to terms with a reality that one of its services is not living up to a reasonable definition of viability.”But asked if Sound Transit might shut down the costly line, CEO Joni Earl responded, “At this stage, absolutely not.” Earl says the Sounder north line is “a long-term investment” and notes that the citizens of Snohomish County still seem to want the line. Sound Transit says it is boosting marketing efforts and working with transit partners and local jurisdictions to increase ridership and lower the cost per rider.
I have sort of a thing for mushrooms (the non-hallucinogenic kind, thank you). One of the small-town festivals I frequented while living in the Midwest was Morel Mushroom Days in Muscoda, Wisconsin. I would save my pennies, take home a pint (they were only $12 a pound back then!), and slice up and fry those tasty, tender, foldy little treats in butter.
Northwest sushi pioneer Shiro Kashiba livens up the ferry ride to Bainbridge Island by talking about his memoir, Shiro, as part of Kitsap Regional Library's new on-board Ferry Tales program. Upon landing, take the 10-minute walk to Intentional Table in Winslow for a sushi tasting directed by Shiro himself. Ferry departs Seattle at 3 p.m. on September 28. Sushi tasting at 4 p.m. krlferrytales.wordpress.com.
“When you’re brothers, it’s like you have a secret language,” says Chris Friel, 44, who plays drums in the band HalloQueen with his brother Rick, 47, who plays bass. “We know when to tell each other to shut up.” And when to pump it up—something else that runs in the blood. Sons of legendary local charity auctioneers Dick and Sharon Friel, the brothers have been playing in bands together since the 1970s, when, as teenagers, they started the band Shadow with future Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready.
Must Park ItPARK(ing) DayFriday (9/20, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) — Parking spaces throughout the city will morph into lounge-worthy mini-parks chock full of activities, music and more for the city’s annual PARK(ing) Day. We especially recommend the artful approach in front of Seattle Art Museum.
On the title page of her script for Bo-Nita, Capitol Hill-based playwright Elizabeth Heffron describes the work simply as “A Play Performed by One Woman.” Turn the page, however, and the complexity is immediately revealed: Set largely in contemporary St. Louis, the cast of characters includes Bo-Nita (a 13-year-old white girl), Mona (Bo-Nita’s mother), Grandma Tiny (in her late 50s), Gerard (30-something, part Cajun), Leon (40-something, African-American), Colonel T (Mona’s uncle) and Jacque (50-something, Cajun)—all embodied by one woman.
For Ruri Yampolsky, 1 measly percent means the difference between bland urban terrain and a cityscape that sparks creativity. As director of the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture’s public art program, Yampolsky oversees the city’s precedent-setting “One Percent for Art” ordinance that mandates 1/100th of all city capital improvement project funds goes toward the installation of public artwork.