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A dozen & more reasons to adore Seattle!

October 29, 2018

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Twelve years of association with a city is quite a time-frame. As a visitor over these many years – Seattle has kind of quietly grown within me. The Emerald city has all the energy, charm and passion that is bound to stir up emotions uniquely ones own. Could that be broken down into some form of algorithm? No way!

Over these years what has one seen not change or has indeed changed seems a tempting approach to take. And the downtown for me is essentially the focal point. So, the Yellow Leaf Cupcake Company continues to flourish. Looks like Studio Bad Animals, from across the road, must move on thanks to a proposed redevelopment. By the way the Emerald City seems to be the fastest growing in all of the USA. It has the highest number of operational cranes – perhaps more than all the resident sea gulls.

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Whole Foods got acquired by locally headquartered Amazon with its recent landmark globe shaped entrance – truly has its global design in play. The takeover almost coincided with the demise of Sears. Owners of Kmart a pioneer of the retail revolution, an original favourite since my first visit to America. RIP Paul Allen. Virtually seems like he was the force behind everything visionary that has happened here.

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Sights, sounds & the vibrancy!

The first ever Starbucks at 1912 Pike Place remains as busy as ever. Finally it has a foothold in India and is well past 100 outlets. Seattle averages one store for every 4000 people! Fall seems no different from summer when it comes to action around the  Farmer’s Market at the Pike. It’s the artists, musicians, vegetable, flower and fruit vendors and a whole lot of diverse food that can keep you hooked all day long. I am told people drive from Vancouver to savour the Piroshky offerings. The Pike Place Fish Company can never be short on drama.

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Of course I do hear murmurs on how expensive the city has become particularly for artists and teachers. That is not good news though. Uber is finally a settled mode of mobility after years of protests by the yellow taxis. And with some luck you might run into good artists doubling as Uber drivers. I guess that applies to other equally fast growing cities like Austin (Tx), as well. A fall visit tends to keep you more indoors, thanks to the cooling weather, thus more time to interact with artists. Mya Kerner shared brilliant insights into her masterful devotion to mountains. Her paintings bring a rare grandeur into living rooms.

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Let there be Music!

The range is truly phenomenal. Be this the prancing violinist at the Space Needle or the duo who play the piano and violin at the Pike Place – they are all outstanding entertainers. The masters of Western Classical or Jazz give you the uplifting experience at the likes of the Benaroya Hall and the Seattle Art Museum. Behzod Abduraimov, the Uzbek genius who started playing piano at the tender age of of five, recently mesmerised the audience with his phenomenal technique and breathtaking delicacy. His magical fingers were such a delight to watch as he played Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto. Thomas Dausgaard the renowned conductor gave glimpses into his virtuosity and what one might expect from the conductor in residence at the Seattle Symphony, effective 2019.

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Earshot Jazz Festival, currently ongoing, is an outstanding showcasing that Seattle can take pride in. It’s Mission Statement says it all: To ensure the legacy and progression of the art form, Earshot Jazz cultivates a vibrant jazz community by engaging audiences, celebrating artists, and supporting arts education. Listening to the sparkling Tom Harrell Quartet was magical and the time just zipped past. Apart from the legendary trumpeter Tom himself were his regulars Ugonna Okegwo (bass) and sensational Adam Cruz (drums). They were joined by brilliant next-wave Cuban pianist David Virelles. Also performing in the course of the event is a Cuban all women’s band. A stunning four weeks of exotic musical treat making Seattle an irresistible Jazz destination!

City of Literature!

Quoting author and editor Ryan Boudinot ‘Central Connecticut State University, which conducts America’s Most Literate Cities poll, has ranked Seattle as number one or number two every year since the poll started’. He had his own set of challenges in getting Seattle the recognition to join this exclusive club. Having gotten there, It is now among 28 such cities around the world. Iowa City being the only other American location. But those of us who write here know in our bones that this is a city with rare devotion to the written word, says Ryan.

A must do each time I am here and wish to get high is to sit through a book reading or a launch – be it at the Public Library, Athenaeum or the Elliott Bay Book Shop. Ryan quips, The literary effects of our recently legalised cannabis remain to be seen. I have a hunch we’re in for a science-fiction boom.  Weed or not, listening to Bill Barry – the NASA Chief Historian’s fascinating account on the space agency’s past and the future plans – I reckon we are already into the realm of fiction. There could not be a better venue for Bill to present than the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, at the Boeing’s Museum of Flight. Named after the first ever fare paying space tourist. Moreover, the two big boys of Seattle – Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are significant investors in the business of space exploration. Looks like the critical mass for sci-fi is well in place!

Aqua!

Having covered the sky and the earth, how could one ignore the marine world. The Pacific and the glacial lakes are not only responsible for the sustenance but the dramatic landscape, adventure and the life underneath. The hordes of seafood at the fish market

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and the exotic supply for gourmet lovers at all shades of restaurants can spin a mirage. Climate change is hurting and that includes man made interventions.

Tressa Arbow, a budding marine scientist, explains how building dams upstream has been blocking the breeding grounds of salmon. Thereby starving the transient orcas of their staple food. She also explains how PCP dumping in the wetlands, even though banned for a while, is poisoning orcas and killing the calves.

The other night hearing author Kwame Anthony Appiah at the Seattle Public Library talk about his book The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity made me think. Rethink about the ongoing philosophical debate on granting human-hood to Cetaceans like whales and dolphins. The human race seems so caught up in its tribal mode that we are all prisoners of identities thrust upon us. Will we and if so when – embrace the super intelligent marine creatures as one of us? Perhaps Seattle will have that opportunity for greatness thrust upon it, too!

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2 Comments
  1. Sanjiv Shanbhag permalink

    Very informative and thought provoking……..

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