Adventures at home

By February 29th, 2020

I am a habitual payer of attention to random details when sojourning beyond my front door. I notice the guy in the black hoodie across the street who stands in front of the Masonic Lodge smoking cigarettes at almost the same time each morning. I realize there is a new sticker (a smiley face with dead eyes) on the pole of the bus shelter. I also realize that it has been over a week and the same plastic cap from a bottle of Mountain Dew is still stuck in the same sidewalk crack. As I ride the bus to work, I see a fellow bus passenger’s snazzy looking purse or another fellow passenger’s expensive looking leather shoes and how it complements his well-tailored jacket and pants.

“Good sir, is that a… lion pup?” I asked, confusedly.
A glimpse of a church down an alley with a side of graffiti

Both good and bad catch my eye: crude graffiti, tasteful mural on a building, homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk, a shiny black Jeep Rubicon with a monstrous set of wheels. My local city is an urban adventure indeed, if you know where to look.

When you get to the corner by the golden pig, turn around.

It is now Friday, a bit past noon. My boss keeps asking me why I am still in the office. I am rushing to finish sending a few more carefully worded emails to the higher beings and string pullers at work. I am confident they won’t even notice my missives until Monday morning, 9 am at the earliest. No auto-replies so far telling me they have left town for the time being and will be back soon. After 37 emails sent today, Outlook hasn’t decided to take the rest of the day off. It must be my lucky day.

It’s the day before my birthday. My mom is still in town, staying with me. I promised her we would go exploring downtown. She loves taking the water taxi across the Puget Sound to our neck of the city. I do too. We decided to meet downtown a few blocks from my office. She is having coffee with her new friend at one of the ubiquitous coffee chain cafes. They are to wait for me and we will grab some early dinner at the boardwalk before catching the water taxi home. We might also catch one of the pretty sunsets on the way.

I could almost hear the clopping of a horse drawing a carriage

Walking the few blocks to downtown is an adventure in itself. Nowhere near the green, forested trails and mountainsides I enjoy traipsing in but charming and interesting, nonetheless. Despite all the new construction for skyscrapers popping up everywhere like mushroom on a fallen tree, the old grandeur remains.

A sky scraping skyscraper with all the romantic details

Here and there, you can catch a glimpse of the city’s history. You can sometimes walk past the old building facades and, looking in through the window as you walk by, imagine yourself transported decades into the past. Seattle may be a modern city but it has certainly managed to hold on to its bygone-era charm with a steel grasp.

Alice and Mom hanging out with Mr. Haglund and his buddies

Ivar Haglund opened Seattle’s first aquarium in 1938. To feed the hungry visitors (and the seagulls who hung around the area), he opened a fish and chips shop next door. The statue depicting Ivar feeding the seagulls was commissioned by his friends, whose names are engraved on the back of the statue’s chair.

As close to feeding the seagulls as Mom will want to get
Not quite acres of clams but these will do nicely

Mom and her friend had fish and chips (fries, actually). I had the fried clams. I did not receive an acre of clams, just enough to fill a cardboard tray. There were plenty of gulls hanging out on the pier and a sign saying it is okay to feed them.However, seeing as my pudgy fingers could easily be mistaken for a chubby worm, I decided it might not be the best idea.

Silver bells, cockle shells, and… seagulls all in a row

Standing in line to board the water taxi, waiting for the sun to set and bathe the water and the city skyline with that gorgeous orange fire is not such a bad thing to do. I was in good company, a full stomach, about to end my work week and wind down for a nice weekend break.

“catching” the sunset
The wasp-waisted queen holding court in a palace draped with glorious shades of dusk

As the sun continues to set and the water taxi jets its way across the sound, I look back at the downtown skyline. I notice the silhouette of the buildings across the sky, the Great Wheel and its flashing neon lights, the wasp-waisted Space Needle seemingly standing away from the megaliths like a queen holding court.

Catching a glimpse from between barnacle-laden wooden piles

The Garden of Flowers, and of turtles, ducks, and fish.

By August 10th, 2019

I have always found that a well-kept garden, even in the middle of a bustling city, can do wonders for a troubled and anxious mind. I found such a garden not far from my work, mere blocks from the hustle and noise of downtown. It is were one can truly appreciate the Japanese attention to detail and drama, where simple lines and curves can awaken all five senses. You don’t need to hop on a plane to Tokyo for this one. If you live in Seattle, you can easily hop on a bus to get there.

The view from inside the community workroom into the garden

The Seattle Japanese Garden has been open to the public since the 1960’s. It’s designed as a stroll garden with winding paths around a central lake and every area of the garden evokes different aspects of Japanese culture. The path itself curves up and over hills, and around trees and strategically placed bushes as if to hide just what is around the corner.

What delightful sights could be just around the bend?

Stepping through the gates and into the garden, I imagined myself like Alice stepping through the looking glass. However, the flowers here were not as “live” as the ones in Alice’s garden. The colors and beauty of the blooms were very captivating.

As you walk along the path, you get transported from a soothing forest to a lakeside garden. Vibrant koi fish languorously swim across the water like rainbow ribbons. There is a wooden bridge spanning the water with a platform where you can stop for a sit. On some days, they will let you feed the fish. They will happily swim closer and nibble on the fish food you bless them with, unless the ducks get there first.

The koi were a little shy today.

You can also see stone lanterns along the path, by the stone bridge, and in the pond. They remind me of the lanterns that I see travelers carry around in the anime shows I love to watch. As you keep walking along the meandering foot path further into the garden, you will also see a small pergola where you could pause in the shade and enjoy the view. There is also a concrete platform right along the pond that reminds you of a Japanese boat deck.

As far as gardens go, this one comes close to being a favorite. The landscape doesn’t change much over the years but each time I come back, it still feels refreshingly new. At least, this pretty garden is not behind the tiny door. I won’t need to shrink myself just right to find my way in.

And if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key

By June 28th, 2019

I had always dreamed of building a miniature city of sorts. I read a book once about how to build a miniature house in a bottle. I fantasized and planned that one day I would find the perfect house to shrink down to size and keep in a bottle. I would probably stare at it all day, imagining myself shrinking like Alice after drinking from the mysterious bottle, living in that little house.

One day, I realized that I could do the next best thing with a tilt-shift lens. I had been playing with my Rokinon Tilt-Shift Lens for a few years now. I use it mostly to take better photos of buildings and do reflection shots from windows without seeing my reflection. I knew you could use it to take “miniature effect” photos and I wanted to figure out how and try it for myself.

The trick works best from a high place. The Space Needle had finally reopened after a major renovation although there were still some sections closed off and being worked on. I stepped out onto the glass-encased viewing platform and snapped away.

I think that’s I-5 down there.

It took some trial and error before I figured out the perfect combination of narrow depth of field and tilting the lens.

Tiny buildings and tiny cranes!!!

It was so much fun. I could see it was turning out well from the camera’s screen but I knew I would see it better on a bigger screen when I got home to get the images on my computer.

I spent a few more minutes up in the view deck then sat down at the snack bar for some lunch. It was a lovely time spent people-watching. I did one final walk and took a few more shots then headed back down to catch the monorail back to downtown.

Sometimes, being at the bottom gives you a new perspective on things.

I also managed to catch this gem of a shot before I headed home for the day.

3 icons in one shot!!!

This last one actually got turned into a piece of Photoshop art that now graces my office and reminds me of all the pretty places out there that I can’t wait to see, snap, and share with everyone.