Emerald City Blues Festival 2010: Seattle

First, a quick shout-out to Elizabeth – she’s one of my closest friends, and back in October she had the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever attended. Now (finally) she’s blogging about it, and if you know her (or if you want to see pictures of and read about an incredible wedding) check out her blog: That Cardboard Box.

On to the business at hand, I flew to Seattle on Thursday, November 11, for a five day visit and the Emerald City Blues Festival. The event included three days of workshops and four nights of dancing. A friend, Nick, and I flew out together and met up with David, who was already in town.

It was an excellent weekend, and I had some wonderful dances, but I’m actually going to focus on some of the really fabulous non-dancing aspects of the weekend.  David and I are considering Seattle as a potential home sometime in the next year, so we wanted to get a feel for the city beyond the dance scene.  In a good faith effort to meet and become friends with Seattle, we visited a blues bar, visited a wide variety of independent cafes, spent some time in a lovely bookstore, and saw the aquarium.

The blues bar, Highway 99, feels like a neat little hole-in-the-wall sort of place, but it’s apparently quite well known. They host live music five nights a week, and on Thursday night the place was packed.  To get there, you have to go down from the ground level to a basement door (shouldn’t all blues bars be underground?) and then pass the inspection of the doorman.  David, Nick, and I, having passed inspection, found a cozy nook with couches far enough from the band to hear the music clearly but still be able to hear one another.  The band was good, and we spent a good two hours in the bar, recovering from the flight and catching up with David.

Over the weekend, we visited several cafes – Seattle is littered with them – but the primary one we visited was Oddfellows, because it was downstairs from our workshop location and REALLY awesome.  They had a very strong independent, artsy feel: the servers were pierced and tattooed, the food was out of the ordinary and locally produced, the tables, benches, and decor were mix-matched and worn. I sampled their fare several times, partaking – over the course of three days – of a breakfast panini, coffee, an orange and currant scone, a chicken salad sandwich, and several pots of tea. All of which I would recommend.

*Both photos courtesy of Oddfellows’s Facebook page

We also sampled tea, coffee, and delicious ginger molasses cookies in a book store and cafe called The Elliot Bay Book Company.  David needed to do some work and I needed a break from classes, so we played hooky for an hour and visited this book shop.  Caught momentarily without a book (!), I searched the shelves for something of interest and ended up purchasing Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World by Kathleen Kagan, an anthology of folk tales featuring active female protagonists:

One of the greatest dilemmas was the definition of a heroine. The following criteria served as a guideline: The main characters are female and they are worthy of emulation.  They do not serve as the foil to the “good” character in the story, and they are not wicked queens, Mother Miserys, or nagging mothers-in-law. A second criteria was that the tale must center in and around the heroine. For example the tale “Gawain and the Lady Ragnell” was not included in this anthology because although the “lesson” of the tale is that a woman should control her own life, the action centers on the man, Gawain. Thirdly, my daughters acted as the touchstone for many of the tales. My older daughter pleaded eloquently for the exclusion of female protagonists who died at the end of the story.  – Introduction

It’s a wonderful book, and I enjoy both the tales themselves and the bit of commentary Ragan gives at the end of each one. The project of the anthology began because she had trouble finding children’s books featuring female protagonists to read to her two young daughters.  She began changing the gender in stories to mix it up a bit.  And then one night they read If I Ran the Zoo.  “A part of the story described hens roosting in each others’ topknots. When it said “Another one roosts in the topknot of his./ And another in his, and another in HIS…,” I got angry. Since when is a hen masculine?” So Ragan started counting characters. In Dr. Seuss books, she found that 90 percent of the main characters were male, and of the female 10 percent, most were a negative character. She checked libraries and anthologies, which had even lower rates of heroines, and finally she decided to compile her own.  To create her volume of 103 tales, she sifted through over 30,000 stories, and the result is a magnificent collection.

Also, I had a fun experience when I went to purchase the book. The young man behind the counter (YMBTC) asked if I had a stamp card, and I replied that I didn’t:

Me: I’m from Ohio.
YMBTC: Oh! What part of Ohio?
Me: Near Columbus.
YMBTC: Neat. I went to school up north in Wooster.
Me: I went to Wooster!

Turns out we graduated a year apart, both with degrees in the humanities.  I love when that happens; when you meet someone you know or who you ought to know in a situation where you would never expect to run into said person.  And it happens so often. You can ask almost any Wooster graduate, and they’ll be able to tell you of a chance Wooster-related meeting.

The final note in this entry is that if you ever find yourself in Seattle, check out their aquarium. It’s a really awesome facility. In addition to the typical aquarium stuff, there’s a lot of very interesting exhibits and information about Seattle’s aquatic life AND they have a giant pacific octopus.

David sent this to me the last time he was in Seattle.  When
we visited, the octopus was sleeping upside down in the
corner – and he was snoring!


Also, just to brag a little, I have to share that I wrote this on David’s new iPad.  It’s such a cool device!


Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving weekend! I am in the process of writing a post for our trip to Seattle which you can expect to come out in the next couple of days. In the meantime, I hope everyone can find something to be thankful for and that everyone has their fill of Turkey Day feasting.

David and I are splitting the holiday, joining his parents yesterday and mine tomorrow. I am pleased to report that our visit with his family (a.k.a. the meeting of the parents) went fabulously.

In the spirit of the holiday, things for which I am thankful include, in no particular order: my family, David, Renata, Elizabeth, the cup of coffee that is getting me through today, my impending move and the ensuing adventures which the move represents, my library, my cat, the incredibly fluffy blanket purchased in Seattle in which I am currently wrapped, and the sunlight streaming in through the window.

I would love to hear what you are thankful for right now – please make use of the comments section to share!

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (and a Halloween Dance…)

We danced in DC this past weekend.  David and I drove to DC on Friday night and attended Saturday’s Halloween swing dance at Glen Echo Park, and the blues dance at Du Shor dance studio.  And it was fun. The attendance was a little lower than expected, and we didn’t pull together much in the way of costumes (David had a vague pirate theme and I wore a t-shirt with a skeleton), but it was a good end to an excellent day.

Because although we danced in DC, we went for the Rally.  That’s right.  David and I were 2 of the 215,000-odd people that attended the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on October 30, 2010.

While initially we planned to go into the thick of it and attend the Rally from within the crowd on the National Mall, the sheer, overwhelming size of the crowd made it insane to stay there, and we wandered the edge of the crowd until we found ourselves at the back of the stage, between the stage and the Capitol Building.  After wandering a bit more, we discovered the media tent. From the entrance to the tent we watched a live feed of the stage and heard every word and saw everything that happened.

 Most of the show was comedy: a battle between Stewart, promoting sanity, and Colbert, arguing for fear.  There were musical numbers, costume changes, guest appearances, and outrageous props (a giant, papier-mache Stephen Colbert puppet?!)  At the end, though, Stewart spoke for ten minutes very sincerely, and what he had to say was less a political message and more an appeal to reason.  “This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the Heartland or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.”

Stewart argued that politically we need give and take, just as in our daily lives where we don’t push and shove and cheat to have our way.  No matter what political view the people around us hold, we work with them to accomplish those things in our daily lives that we need to accomplish (such as merging on the highway).  “Because we know, instinctively as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness.  And  sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the Promised Land – sometimes, it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway. Together.”

He also took time to criticize the mainstream media’s habit of blowing everything out of proportion, calling the media “the country’s 24-hour, politico-pundit, perpetual-panic conflictinator.”  He doesn’t blame the media for our country’s problems; he says they’ve skewed our focus because they’ve become misguided: “The press can hold it’s magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or, they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire. And then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected, dangerous, flaming ant epidemic.  If we amplify everything; we hear nothing.”

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart – Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or Fear The Daily Show The Colbert Report