Note From Jon


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Somewhere "Hoh River" the Rainbow...

For my birthday this year I was given—in addition to a Blue Virginia(!)a trip to Washington (the State)! I can neither confirm nor deny whether this gift may have been in any way related to a job interview my girlfriend had at the same time in Seattle :-p This was my first trip to the Emerald City (or the Pacific Northwest in general) and it definitely lived up to its nickname: While the first days were greyscale (although only outside) this was soon replaced by blue skies and a trip following the not-quite-yellow-brick highway 101 around the Olympic Peninsula—ultimately winding up at the end-of-the-rainbow (literally).

Thanks to Lonely Planet studying on the airplane flight and my relentless travel pace—which I hopefully managed to moderate fairly well—we packed in much of what we wanted to do over the four day trip. The highlight for me was our day driving the Olympic Peninsula and visiting the Hoh National Rainforest (thanks to Jeff for the suggestion) and it earned its own slideshow (so at least skip to the bottom if you don’t feel like reading). I won’t detail every moment as I did for Russia or West Africa but here were some things I learned from the trip:

  • Lowell’s in the Pike Place Market has a great view over the Sound on the third floor and good, cheap food to boot. Also at the market, Beecher’s handmade cheese is delicious.
  • Try to see Frank Gehry’s E.M.P. building in sunlight (which is also probably a good time to visit the Space Needle next door)
  • The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is free on the first Thursday of the month and is open until 9pm. Highlights included the Aboriginal artwork of Emily Kame Kngwarreye and helping some scavenger hunters track down the title of Katharina Fritsch’s Mann und Maus
  • Lola’s in the Hotel Andra offers delicious cinnamon donut holes with Mascarpone cheese
  • One of the best tips we got was to call 206-553-3000 (Seattle Metro) and tell them where you were and where you wanted to go and they would tell you what buses to take and when to catch them. We used this all the time to get around the city on the public buses. The buses also get you downtown from door 00 of Sea-Tac airport for $1.50.
  • We loved the Argosy Locks Cruise (my birthday present within a birthday present), which takes you from the Seattle Waterfront up the Puget Sound, through the Hiram Chittenden Locks and into Lake Union (right past the floating house from Sleepless in Seattle)
  • On the cruise our guide Aaron taught us that the Columbia building has one of the nicest women’s restrooms in the world with each stall looking out the glass window onto the city below (it’s the tallest building in town so nobody should be able to see in… theoretically). He also told us that when it came time to film a scene at Tom Hanks’ floating house it uncharacteristically failed to rain so they had to use a fireboat to create fake rain (supposedly, while the paid extras were dressed for the fake weather, you can see some locals in the scene dressed to enjoy the sun)
  • Fremont was my favorite neighborhood with its host of fanciful sculptures including a giant troll under an overpass literally holding a VW Beetle. It’s also home to the Fremont Bridge which I read about in the Lonely Planet. Apparently it was originally painted an uninspiring green but when they went to repaint the bridge it got a primer coat of orange. Some people liked it so much that they just left the orange. Of course some other people dis-liked it so much that when it came time to repaint again they had a vote (and didn’t put orange on the ballot). Blue won. But those orange-lovers were not so easily dissuaded and added orange highlights to the blue bridge. The result turned out to be a happy compromise and they’ve painted this pattern each time since (although Elizabeth and I agreed when we passed under it on the locks cruise that it is due for another repainting)
  • We do better at trivia on the East Coast. We tried our hand at the Monkey Pub’s Friday night pub quiz and finished next to last. I guess these folks are serious since they charge $3 per person and the emcee stopped midway through trivia to break up a table of 6 people (there’s a limit of 4 per team). Still we learned some interesting facts including that while Obama will be the 44th President there have only been 42 different presidents before him—thanks to Grover Cleveland’s non-consecutive terms as both the 22nd and 24th presidents. Also, we are terrible at obscure TV theme songs. We couldn’t pick out “Double-Dare” and I misremembered that the Bloodhound Gang were part of the Electric Company—should have put 3-2-1 Contact.
  • If you are looking for a (long) day trip outside of Seattle head to the Hoh River Rainforest. While the clear-cut trees in some sections of the drive are saddening, there are plenty of spectacular views (Lake Crescent in particular) and the actual Rainforest is like no place I’ve ever seen before. It’s certainly the closest I ever expect to be to an elk. Try to go when the days are longer so you can enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean on the ride home (it’s a powerful feeling standing there even in the dark).
  • We met the ranger at the visitor center, Jon Preston, who wrote a great essay in the book on sale there Fast Moving River: Images and Essays from the Hoh River
  • Enjoy the Hoh River Slide Show which inspired the blog title (hey, it’s my blog so I’ll have punny titles if I want to. According to the vampires in True Blood, puns were once considered the highest form of humor—since replaced by Darrenisms)

Thanks to my family, AB, Jeffrey, Cam, and Laura for all the great suggestions, and of course to Elizabeth for a lovely birthday week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blue Virginia

Thank you everyone. This really was the perfect birthday present :-)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fire it up! Ready to go!

Historic. That was definitely the feeling at Obama's last rally before election day, and I'm so grateful that, despite the late start and traffic, my mom, sister, and I got to be there. From beaming to "Beautiful Day" before the show, to seeing a stranger walk over and hug my mom after the speech, I am filled with Hope. From now on I'll hopefully think of Manassas as the place I first heard President Obama speak (instead of as the home of Lorena Bobbit). And if someone from Centreville can have some love for Manassas, then you know we may really be on to something here...

So from one voice from Greenwood, South Carolina to the entire world:

Fire it up!

Ready to go!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tour the Grape Life

Despite the shouts of the crowd, I was not the Fruit of the Loom guy in the Leesburg Halloween Parade. I was “Chardonnay”, the bunch of green grapes, promoting Virginia Wine Adventures, the wine touring company started by Darren’s sister Deidra. In addition to playing the critical designated driver role, Deidra’s company provides gourmet lunches and knowledgeable guides of the Virginia wineries that you visit on the tours. While I didn’t do as well promoting the company as my compatriot “Merlot” did (according to him), I definitely had fun and like to think I warmed up the crowd for Darren’s—I mean Merlot’s—pitch that followed. I couldn’t get over how excited the kids were to get a “High Four”—our giant white cartoon gloves only have four fingers—from an over-sized bunch of grapes. That was definitely the highlight of the experience for me, although Merlot and I doing the Do-Si-Do dance with our lovely wine bottle girlfriends was definitely up there… as was literally running several hundred yards to close down the gap that had formed between the floats as we got carried away high-fouring the crowd (try to imagine a man running up the street, balloon-sized grapes bouncing all over the place, and giant white cartoon hands flailing wildly—you can see why the “Fruit of the Loom” comment was made quite a bit!).

Here are some Notes to Jon (well actually to Deidra) for next year’s parade:

  • Keep a wine bottle with each grape bunch to cut down on the Fruit of the Loom confusion.
  • Have one person giving out candy on each side of the street to make sure the candy lasts all the way to the end of the parade—the kids at the end looked like they were ready to riot after all the floats were out of candy by that point.
  • More giant white hands. Those were great and really engaged the crowd when we were over interacting with the kids.
  • Purple and green afro wigs for the grapes, and corresponding light-up sunglasses.
  • Try to get behind other floats with walkers. We were all behind driving floats which led to the huge gaps when we tried to walk and interact with the crowd.
  • Go early to Idle Park and bring chairs to relax and tailgate while waiting for the parade to get under way.