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Where the day takes you

February 21, 2009
The GTS off Admiral Way

The GTS at the Admiral Way viewpoint (Orin O'Neill photo)

It was nice to see the sun so early. Beats fog anytime.

I had places to go, things to do, and the weather people were all saying, do outdoor stuff on Saturday, ’cause it’s gonna RAIN ON SUNDAY.

Merging onto the high-level West Seattle Bridge, the lack of traffic is striking. There were, at most, three other cars. There’s usually much more traffic on a Saturday at 11:00 am. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

Same deal on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The lack of aero wakes from other vehicles makes for a calm journey, and a chance to enjoy the view and the hazy sunshine. I’m ready for spring. Have been since the Winter Solstice, actually.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct offers a wonderful view. I wish I could take pictures. I need to get a video camera…

The first stop is Silver Platters at 5th and Roy. I’d decided it was time to thin the DVD collection a bit, and they seem to have the widest selection of used DVDs.

“Selling?” asks the guy behind the counter. I guess the plastic grocery bag was a giveaway.

The guy takes my info; I leave the discs on the counter to browse the aisles. I like record stores. The closing of Tower Records saddens me to this day (SP occupies the former Tower store).

In another universe, I was a radio disc jockey. In high school, then Armed Forces Radio and finally a couple of minor gigs in Seattle and Moscow, Idaho. It wasn’t the music that attracted me—my career spanned the Disco Era—so much as the fact that people actually listened to what I had to say when I was on the air. I never thought of it as work.

But I was never that into the music, either. Most of my colleagues gravitated to various genres outside the Top 40 realm, but after listening to music all day at work all I wanted to hear was myself thinking. And that’s true to this day. I had an iPod, but I sold it because I hardly ever used it. I have a whole bunch of CDs, which I’ve listened to once or twice and put on the shelf. Of course, I had books that I’d read once and put on the shelf. Books and CDs are excellent decorating solutions.

The main reason I’m not in radio anymore has a lot to do with what local radio legend Pat O’Day has called radio’s tendency to be its own worst enemy. Get rid of all the “negatives,” things that might cause someone to tune out. Unfortunately, once you do that, there’s no reason to tune in. That, and the media consolidation over the last decade that has resulted in a single company being able to own up to eight radio stations in single market (back in the day, it was seven AM and seven FM, in the entire country).

Back in the day, each radio station in major markets like Seattle played distinctive kinds of music. Find one or two you like, and your record collection would probably reflect what those statons played. Finding music you liked required little effort.

Now, there are many, many places to find music, mostly because you have to. Commercial radio stations mostly play the same songs, in spite of their insistence that their formats are different. Some markets have stations like KEXP, others have well-established college stations.

But it requires a lot more effort on the listener’s part to find music. And I guess I’m showing my age, because I can think of all kinds of things I’d rather be doing than looking for MP3 downloads. Especially since—yep, showing my age again—the only difference I can find between what most bands are playing now and what different bands played three-plus decades ago is the decibel level.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard several local and not-so-local musicians who do what they do very well. But I’ve already heard someone else doing what they do. A million times.

I do realize the resulting disinclination means I might be missing something. Not so long ago, I read a review of DeVotchKa’s A Mad and Faithful Telling in which the reviewer said the Denver-based band was “eavesdropping on my daydreams.” This intrigued me. No one has ever said anything like that about an album, at least not that I’ve ever read. At about the same time, I was in a record store and they had the disc on sale for $9.99. So I bought a copy.

My apologies to the reviewer, but I didn’t hear anything that sounded like eavesdropping on my, or anyone else’s, daydreams. What I did hear was exuberant, fun and totally unlike anything I’d listened to in a long, long time. Certainly not the heavy, grating, angry, downright depressing stuff that seems to define indie rock.

I listened to this disc more than twice, and now recognize the songs on it when I go to coffee shops to get online. When money gets so it’s not too tight to mention, I’ll probably get their other discs and seriously consider attending one of their shows. I’m sorry I missed out.

And I’m also sorry for getting so far off the subject! 😳

I opted for cash instead of store credit, and was on my way. My next stop was Grocery Outlet on MLK. The chain has become a very popular place to shop lately, and they have good prices on canned foods.

There’s still very little traffic as I head through downtown on 5th Avenue. And very few people downtown generally. It’s been that way since I’ve been taking classes on Monday nights. I would hate to have a business downtown.

The GTS and I stop for the light at the end of 5th, and I am reminded you can’t make the left turn onto Dearborn any more. I cannot think of why, but you can’t, and I don’t need a ticket. When the light changes, I make the loop from Airport Way to 8th Avenue, then onto Dearborn. You pass by the ginormous new BMW Seattle showroom, which appears to be about half-finished. Never mind car sales (especially German luxury cars) having tanked, having an albatross like this around your neck can’t be good for one’s business.

Southbound on Rainier Avenue, there’s still not much traffic. The Grocery Outlet is behind the new Link Light Rail station, which is just south of the intersection of Rainier and MLK.

Or at least it was.

There were big sheets of plywood where the windows used to be, and a giant “For Rent” banner where the Grocery Outlet sign once was. How sad. I get the impression Grocery Outlet stores are franchised, and it would be safe to assume profit margins are really thin. Someone lost their business.

Now where? Fred Meyer in Renton is fairly close, and their prices are good. I’ll go there.

It’s a good excuse to take Cheasty Boulevard up to Beacon Avenue, and go south from there. Beacon Avenue is divided by a wide grass median, and lined with modest houses built in the 1950s, many of which have brick exteriors. When I was very small, my parents lived in one of these houses, but I don’t know the address.

Not being able to remember if Beacon Avenue intersects with MLK (it doesn’t), I take the left on Cloverdale and go down the hill. From there, it’s right on MLK, which is also designated SR 900. I love having the GTS when taking this route, the intertwined SR 900 and I-5 entry/exit ramp speeds in excess of 50 mph a breeze.

This is the way you go to visit Jimi Hendrix’ grave at Greenwood Cemetery. But I took the right at 68th instead. It becomes Monster Road. And no, I don’t know how it got the name. There’s nothing particularly monstrous about it, it’s just entertainingly twisty and flanked by lush greenery until it becomes 7th Avenue in Renton.

Traffic is still light in downtown Renton, so it won’t be too big a deal if I don’t remember exactly where the Fred Meyer is.

I don’t, but it becomes apparent soon enough. I park next to the bike rack because that’s where a Fred Meyer employee once said I had to park my moped. That “moped” being the PX.

Having gotten what I came for, it seemed foolish to waste the sunshine, so I pointed the GTS north on Rainier Avenue, the next stop being Lake Washington Boulevard.

But first, let’s do the Seward Park loop. Still not much traffic, and it was now well after noon, so you’d think people would be flocking to the lakeshore.

There were a lot more bicycles than cars on Lake Washington Boulevard. This often happens when a major cycling event like the Tour of California is happening. A lot of these bikes cost more than the GTS. In some cases, more than the MSRP for a new one!

It was nice to be able to observe the 25-mph speed limit and enjoy the scenery. Group rides tend to go much faster, and you need to focus on the scooters around you, so you don’t see much aside from your fellow riders.

Didn’t go up Madrona Drive this time, but continued along the shore through Leschi. There were nowhere near the number of “For Sale” signs as on Mercer Island. Either people here are making their mortgage payments, or they’ve told their agents not to plant signs.

The plan was to head north through the Arboretum and the U District to Café Racer and take a break.

Fresh out of suggestions for the crossword, the GTS and I head for Lake Union, Fremont and the Queen Anne entrance to Aurora. Traffic seems to have thickened up around Green Lake, and especially on southbound Aurora. Traffic can be good.

Before going home, I make a pass through Alki. There are bunches of people on the beach. Probably because it’s supposed to rain on Sunday. Favicon

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4 Comments
  1. fuzz permalink
    February 23, 2009 5:33 am

    I don’t believe their prices are that good to make a special trip – but there is a Grocery Outlet in Burien at 4th and SW 152nd Street if you’re in the hood.

  2. February 23, 2009 8:45 am

    Orin:

    I used to listen to KJR “Pat O’day” back in the day . . . It was my favourite radio station. I even visited their radio station on Harbor Island.

    Also your picture. I recognize the Pullout area, there is a viewpoint which overlooks the Seattle skyline. I was there last November and also drove around the Alki area. We had friends that used to own the GOLDEN SUN chinese restaurant, which was sold a few years ago, and I notice that it is now a trendy place to eat.

    It’s nice to be out and about on your scoot. I was out on Saturday but a little on the cool side. Had to wear more layers to keep warm.

    Probably see you at the Pi Rally in Bellingham on March 14th

  3. February 23, 2009 11:18 am

    Fuzz, thanks for the tip. On the GTS, it’s not so far.

    bob, it may even be likely you’ll see me in Bellingham. Mmmm. Pie…

  4. irondad permalink
    February 23, 2009 4:23 pm

    I have a one-off CD by R.L. Burnsides. The reason I bought it was for the song, “It’s Bad, You Know!” Rollicking blues type beats abound. What’s so appealing is that you can just hear the guys having fun as they make music. Maybe that’s why I haven’t found any other stuff by them. Not commercial enough.

    We have a bunch of radio stations up and down the valley owned by the same company. You can also tell by listening to them. Local DJ’s are becoming extinct. I really resent the piped in morning shows.

    Interesting reading your tale of the day. I never knew that Hendrix was buried up there. I went to Renton Motor Sports to get Sophie in a dealer trade. Now I think it’s owned by Bob Lamphear or something.

    It’s interesting to read of your journeys up there. I go by Renton on 405 when I get called to the Mothership in Kirkland.

    Take care.

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