Getting to Know Seattle: Rock n’ Roll Marathon

Rock n’ Roll Marathon is a national franchise, so the race happens in many cities during the summer months. Sunday was Seattle’s turn.

The race came right by my house, and I’m astonished at how many people tackled this super hilly challenge. The runners came right by my street, a steady stream of them for a couple of hours. They came up the back end of Queen Anne hill, which means they ran down the super steep seven blocks going into the city. Running downhill is really hard on the shins.

Early risers and dog walkers were along the route to cheer them on.

Seattle is an outdoorsy city, and this race has lots of appeal for runners and race watchers alike. Great kickoff to the summer season.

There was actually a young-ish woman, but old enough to know better, standing on the sidewalk in front of my house screaming “f***ing awesome” in a loud screechy voice as people passed. Sigh. I hardly know what to say. One of the race monitors finally went up and asked her to move along.

The Neat and the Wild

I like order around me, always have. Part of deciding to put in cedar fencing in my yard was to manage the fact that my  neighbors — who are great guys and good neighbors in all respects that matter — have wildly overgrown, unattended yards. They were most accommodating about my ripping out foliage rooted in their yards but over-growing into mine in order to install the fence. But it would have been quite another thing to ask permission to get their wild bushes in order. Maybe they like them the way they are.

A visitor asked how I feel about the crazy intertwined bushes that give something of a chaotic backdrop to my fence, wondering if the disarray bothers me. Actually it doesn’t. It’s not my disarray. More to the point, these thick bushes are home to many, many songbirds who come into my yard to drink at the birdbath. Hummingbirds emerge in order to eat seeds from the red hot pokers. Robins peck the ground looking for worms. Bluebirds do battle with the other birds, chasing them away.

When the guys were ripping out the foliage on my side they found evidence that the raccoons were living in the most overgrown part of the bush. I think we’ve torn enough away so that’s no longer true, although clearly the raccoons have stayed in the neighborhood. I wish they were gone entirely, but oh well. My grass seems to be rooted enough so that rolling it up is no longer so easy.

I think I have the best of all worlds.

Budding Gardener: Who Knew Mulch Came In Kinds?

Home services in my former hometown of Rochester, NY, were less costly and more comprehensive than they are here in Seattle. I could tell Broccolo and Company that I wanted grass, trees, and shrubs healthy, weed free, trimmed, and green. I added that I wanted plants to add color three seasons of the year, a mix of annuals and perennials. I smiled sweetly and said I never wanted to touch the dirt — and voila! It was done.

Here in Seattle I do some, and the two different landscapers I use do some. My friend Nicki, a master gardener herself, does my pots as a birthday gift. Because no one here uses chemicals, only organic, some things — like chemical weed killer– aren’t done by anyone. We dig weeds out by hand. I have to say things look gorgeous — even though spring has been dry enough to qualify as a drought and I’m watering like mad.

I was out changing the sprinkler in front when the gym manager where I belong walked by. He stopped, enthralled by the garden, and asked what kind of mulch I use. Apparently as a second job he does the gardening at the condo building where he and his wife live.

Mulch comes in kinds?

I told him I’d talk to Gonzalo and find out.

I’m happy with my new skills, and am having quite a bit of fun exchanging gardening tips with friends who are long time and experienced gardeners. But when someone gets down to the fairly basic nitty gritty, like what kind of mulch I use, my status as a rank newbie is revealed. 🙂

Here are my birthday pots. Gorgeous, no?

Identifying My Mystery Flower

I can’t really take credit for the lovely garden in front of my house. A skilled and artistic woman named Laurie is helping me, and she she planted the flowers that look to me like fireworks. She tells me the name is allium shubertii, also known colloquially as tumbleweed onion. I just love them, and so far they are thriving. 🙂


Crowd Climbing Mount Everest

Rising slightly more than 29,000 feet into impossibly thin air, the peak of Mt. Everest quite simply has too little oxygen to sustain life for more than very short time, even for climbers who use supplemental oxygen bottles.

That’s a problem when 250-300 climbers are blocking the path down, still trying to complete their own ascent. Several climbers, having summited,  died this past week of exhaustion, oxygen deprivation and altitude sickness, waiting to be able to come down.

There isn’t a wide path to the summit, where people can pass each other coming and going. There’s one narrow, icy, slippery, rocky, nearly impassably steep path.

People who die up there pretty much stay put, becoming part of the frozen landscape because it’s too hard to get their bodies down.

I simply don’t get the climbing Everest mania. I begin to feel queasy and dizzy as low as 6000 feet or so, which I discovered many years ago when Jerry and I were in Switzerland and took a chair lift in the summer to a special Alpine dining spot that had been recommended as having a stunning view. I got off the chair lift, and that was the end of any prospect of eating for me. I couldn’t wait to go back down, where I recovered quickly.

Take a gander at this pic of climbers lined up trying to reach the top, and tell me if you’d go get in that line.

Getting to Know Seattle: Copper River Salmon

In Seattle fresh salmon often comes identified by the name of the river where it was caught. The best and most coveted is Copper River salmon, which is available for about three weeks starting now. The cost is always highest the first week. Right now, Copper River king salmon is selling for $60 a pound in local markets. Last night I went to a lecture on Georgia O’Keefe at the Seattle Art Museum, and I stopped in for supper prior to the talk at Steelhead diner near Pike Place Market. They were offering a 7oz dinner serving of Copper River salmon for $65. I passed.

Nearby Japonessa serves Copper River salmon sashimi style. I’ve had it before, and it is heavenly. No idea what five thin slices of fish might cost this year.

Is any fish worth $65 a pound, even something as wonderful as Copper River salmon?

I’ll likely wait a week or two until the price drops a bit, then indulge. Wonderful done on the grill.  🙂

Drought in Panama?

Panama’s dry season, just coming to an end, has apparently been even more parched than usual. The lack of water is affecting transit through the Panama Canal.

The two sets of locks on each end of the Canal are basically like bathtubs, filling and emptying to raise or lower ships coming from sea level into the geographically higher Gatun Lake. Every time a ship goes through, most of the water is dumped back into the ocean, although the new locks apparently have some sort of drainage basin which conserves some of the precious water.

The village that I visit will be affected by low water levels as well. Gloria has told me that sometimes at this time of year, when she turns on the faucet, nothing more than a dribble of gritty water comes out, leaving a residue as she washes the clothes or in the pitcher of drinking water. The nearby hotel complex where I rent a house has a Jack Nicklaus golf course, and the amount of irrigation needed to keep the greens looking colorful and healthy during dry season has changed the water ecology for miles around. Even more serious, when the water levels are low, pesticides and fertilizer are in much greater concentration in the rivers that are the main water source.

When canal transit is down, Panama takes a big revenue hit. Having that canal revenue is what has set Panama apart from more economically challenged countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and made the country more politically stable. Panamanians are well aware that the country’s livelihood depends on water ecology, but no one has figured out how to entice Mother Nature to drop more rain when it’s needed.