Getting to Know Seattle: Cruise Season in Full Swing

When I lived in Belltown I used to walk along the waterfront at least once a week. Now, although I walk no less, that isn’t one of my regular routes. We had a beautiful weekend, so on Saturday I set out. There was a lot to see. By the time I returned home I’d walked 8 miles. I did cut myself a break and take the bus up the steep hill. My legs were tired.

Cruise season is in full swing. I’m always astonished at how close I can get to the huge cruise ships docked at Pier 66 — Norwegian Cruise Line, usually. This one is bigger than most — must be a brand new ship. By 9:30 am most passengers are off, and the new lot are already lining up to board.

I walked by around 10am. Think how much has to be done to get the ship ready for an approximate 4pm departure — x3, because there are at least three ships this size in port every Saturday and Sunday from now until mid-October. Big business for the Port of Seattle.

Farther along on my walk I met a couple from El Paso, Texas, trying to find Pike Place Market. They came in on Saturday for a Sunday departure on Princess, and were trying to see as much of the city as they could in one day. They attached themselves to me, as I was heading in that direction. They were a bit affronted at a homeless person sleeping in the entryway of the closed Federal Building. Actually, the Seattle Police work hard to keep homeless away from the main tourist areas, so this sight was fairly rare. The Texans told me sternly they thought it was time to get tough with these people, they should be taken up and arrested and sent wherever.

Yup. That’s my image of Texas. Perfectly nice people otherwise.

Getting to Know Seattle: Occidental Square

Farther along my walk I came to Pioneer Square, which is touristy, and a few blocks from that Occidental Square, which isn’t.

Poor Seattle and rich, trendy Seattle exist literally a few steps from each other. Occidental Square is a lovely, shady urban respite. During the work week there are food trucks selling lunch to the many workers who walk over during the mid-day break. There are tables and chairs, games like ping pong, chess, and bean bags, often live music. There are small eateries and specialty shops all around the square. On weekends there are urban festivals.

There is always a long table where free sack lunches are provided to the poor, often homeless, who hang around. Just across the square are the hot new coffee shops, bars, and expensive places to get a sit down lunch with wine.

Occidental Square.Trendy shops to right of tree line. Tables with free sack lunch to left.

Poor Occidental Square, the free lunch line.

Trendy Occidental Square

Getting to Know Seattle: Taking Down the Viaduct

I had no idea the de-construction of the old and structurally compromised Viaduct was so far along. This has been a two-tiered highway skirting the waterfront along Seattle’s west side, a major north-south traffic route, and it’s been replaced by a tunnel. The viaduct is coming down in huge swathes of concrete and rebar and metal and dust; fascinating to watch, even on a Saturday. Parts of the viaduct that are embedded in other structures, like the pedestrian crossway between 1st Ave. and the ferry terminal await later demolition; they stand untethered  and impassable.

Once the viaduct is entirely removed you’ll be able to walk from 1st Avenue to the waterfront unimpeded, where there will be parks and other amenities in addition to the cruise and ferry terminals, the ferris wheel, and the other tourist-oriented attractions. Great structural change for downtown Seattle.

A chunk of viaduct still standing that supports the pedestrian walkway from the ferry terminal.

Road to nowhere.

You can see how close to buildings the demolition is.

Viaduct coming down chunk by chunk.

Native Americans and The Solomon’s Choice in Adoption

White America has a terrible history to overcome in terms of our treatment of Native American children. They were taken from their families, often under the auspices of the Catholic Church, and put into orphanages or foster homes whose focus was to destroy any shred of their Indian identity. They were punished for speaking indigenous languages, given “white kid” hair cuts rather than having their long braids, taught that their people were dirty and inferior, made to worship a light-skinned, blue eyed English-speaking God. Often the children were brutally beaten and sexually abused. They were rarely loved, or even treated with basic kindness.

Laws were passed, eventually, protecting the rights of indigenous tribes to have priority in adoption of their children. Hard to argue with that as a philosophy, or a corrective entitlement.

But there are individual Native American children who wind up in long term foster care with white families, and are eventually adopted by them after bonds of affection are formed on both sides. Hard to tell a three or four or five year old child that the only family he’s ever known is the not the right family for him, and that although he will suffer at being removed, he’ll be better off in the long run. Sometimes judges rule in favor of the adopting family, against the tribe.

The situation described in this article is even more complicated. At issue is a newborn Navajo girl whose brother is adopted by a white family. They want her too, arguing that the siblings have a right to be raised together. The Navajo nation takes the opposite stance. They have blood relatives of both children who will raise the little girl. The tribe has already lost her brother. They say they cannot lose her too.

This is one of those situations where two fundamental and legitimate rights are clashing and incompatible. I can’t fathom how any judge makes a right decision.

Rebuilding Notre Dame

The debate about how to rebuild the roof and spire of Notre Dame in Paris goes from the sublime to the ridiculous.

How about a swimming pool instead of a traditional roof, in the shape of a cross and guarded by statues of the 12 apostles? Really.

Parisians don’t have to put the renowned cathedral back just the way it was. I’m all for a blend of old and new. But I’m not a fan of silly season. No rooftop swimming pools, please. Can you imagine tourists traipsing through this magnificent cathedral with their oversized bath towels and flip flops to reach the cathedral’s highest point?

I can’t either.

Getting to Know Seattle: Cruise Season

Cruise season is in full swing here, which means three ships in port each Saturday and Sunday — six departures total — plus the odd ones during the week that are 11 or 17 day cruises.

That’s big business for the local economy, and not just from tourists spending dollars here for overnight hotel stays, restaurants, visits to Pike Place Market and the waterfront. Cruise passengers disembark by about 9:30am, after breakfast. Their luggage is offloaded beginning much earlier. Between 9:30am and around 11:30am when the new group begins to board, the entire ship has to be cleaned, restocked, all the linens turned over, repairs made, new passenger luggage brought on — a huge endeavor and a massive logistics challenge.

The pic below shows two ships at the Magnolia docks, the Holland American one just visible behind the larger white ship, which could be Celebrity. In front of the cruise ship you can see three large commercial fishing vessels, and of course one of Seattle’s ever present tall cranes working on construction of a new commercial building just this side of the ship channel. Olympic Mountain range in the background.

Our American History: Angela

I consider myself reasonably well-read and well educated, yet if you asked me about slavery in the United States, I’d have talked about the Civil War — fought from 1861-1865.

I could never have told you that slavery and democracy were founded together in Jamestown in 1619, when a woman whose Anglicized name was Angela arrived in the colony on a pirate ship and was traded for food. Almost 250 years of brutal subjugation of enslaved Africans followed.

This story, by Washington Post staff write Deneen L. Brown, is powerful and chilling. We know very little about Angela; most of what is written is surmised from conditions at the time. Angela must have been young and relatively healthy to have survived the brutal passage, to have been one of the slaves traded — a young woman of child-bearing age was worth more than an older woman or a child — and to have joined the household of a wealthy planter, Captain William Pierce. All of the settlers faced starvation; the wealthy had a bit more capacity to buy scarce food, and a higher chance of surviving.

White people often consider the story of slavery to be the history of black people. In fact, this is all of our history.

I wish we knew more about Angela.

I’m sitting with the reality that slavery and democracy were founded together — which for me, is a shocking thought. Slavery wasn’t an aberration; slavery was part of our founding DNA.

The persistence of racism in our culture makes more sense in that context.

Representative Ilhan Omar

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum in Manhattan tells the story of waves of immigrants who came to our shores from Europe in the early part of the 20th century. They have much in common with the people fighting to come here now, many from war torn countries or those ravaged by criminal violence, drugs and extreme poverty. Unlike Trump’s demonization of immigrants as dirty and ignorant and of little worth, the people who succeed in making the arduous journey here are the often the strongest, the most ambitious, the ones willing to work hard and risk the most to give their families a better life, a safer life. That was true in the early 20th century, and it’s true now.

Representative Ilhan Omar, whose Minnesota Fifth Congressional district has a large Muslim constituency and a large Jewish constituency, is that kind of immigrant. She’s a Somali-American refugee, a Muslim, a mother of three, a woman of color who wears hijab. She brings to her newly elected office life experience that few others can claim. She’s bright, articulate, and sees the world through a lens that has been heretofore almost entirely absent in Congress.

She’s become caught up in the current political reality that it’s impossible to raise any criticism of Israel without evoking the shrill accusation of being anti-Semitic. She’s also caught in the treacherous cross-current of Republican politics, the effort to pull Jewish voters away from the Democratic Party. None of that is going to get any easier as her time in Congress unfolds.

But I’m optimistic. Representative Omar is a bright woman. She’s speaking from her experience, that of a Muslim woman of color in the United States. Right now her critics are attempting to define her as anti-Israel, and therefore as one whose voice should be silenced. Instead, she’s speaking from her own experience, on behalf of the people and places that U.S. policy ignores or actively hurts. I’m hoping the deflection doesn’t work, and that Rep. Omar is strong enough, resilient enough, for her unique voice to break through.

To Omar, the controversies surrounding her are an episode not in the Jewish experience but in the Muslim one. “People will talk about the veterans and the people who are in the armed services, but we never talk about the children,” she said. “We’re talking about the number of bombs going off, and there’s, like, two thousand people who have died.” In the special vortex of the Trump era, Omar made the extraordinary leap from being a refugee to being a symbol of a new progressive majority, not in a few generations but in a few years. It isn’t only the left’s changing views of Israel that the Democratic Party is struggling to assimilate; it is also the patriotism and disenchantment, obstinacy and poise, of Omar herself.”