Monday, January 30, 2017

Museum of Pop Culture

Exploring Seattle

As the monorail pulled into the Seattle Center station, I looked out the window and noticed wavy panels of steel between a clump of trees.  What's that building? I wondered.  It looks like the Disney Hall.
Then I saw it again--from the observation deck of the Space Needle. Ribbons of green on top of red and purple undulating rooftops.  What is that crazy building down there?
If my travel buddy had been with me, he would have pulled out his cell phone and instantly answered my question.  So bear with me while I digress for a moment.  The building in question, of course, turned out to be the Museum of Pop Culture and my own musing turned out to be spot-on correct.

But how did I gain that information?  Slowly.  Sensuously.  I allowed myself the pleasure of not knowing; the pleasure of wonder.  I walked over to the building and ran my hands along its cold exterior.  I looked up at the colorful sheets of metal.  I read the sign.  I bought a ticket and was given a brochure.  "When the world-renowned architect Frank O. Gehry designed the building, he was inspired to create a structure that evoked the rock 'n' roll experience without being too literal."


The explosion of technological gadgets has allowed us to get any information we want within seconds.  A veritable encyclopedia of knowledge is literally at our fingertips.  Our phones are omniscient.  Always within reach.  And always on.  I'm not such a philistine that I don't recognize the benefits of these devices, but there are times when I need to turn the damn thing off.

It's so wonderful to pick a restaurant because of the aromatic smells wafting through the front door; not because of a Yelp review.  And I love getting lost.  Only then do I find something new; something that hasn't made Trip Adviser's Top 10 Things to Do in the City list.  I hate that robotic feminine voice telling me where I am every inch of the way.  I DON'T WANT TO KNOW.  I want to figure it out for myself.  I want to peel back the rind to get to the juice; rather than throw back a shot.

So here I am touring a museum where attention spans are meant to be short and senses are bombarded with bling.  The irony does not escape me.  I am a fish out of water.  Or am I?   The movie props and costumes lure me in.  The documentaries are fascinating.  Two hours disappear in no time flat. 

I walk in and out of exhibits quickly reading the Tweet-like documentation.  Gehry's magnificent building is pulsating so loudly with music that I barely hear the chirp of my own cell phone.  It is my son texting me. 

As I walk back to the monorail, I retrieve my phone and start texting away.  Here I am like the hundreds of people around me, not looking up at the sky, but down at a five-inch screen.  I have been sucked into this new world order, hook, line and sinker.  I fight it every day of my life, but it is a losing battle.

Like the Museum of Pop Culture pointed out, our lives are defined by the movies we watch, the video games we play and the music we listen to.

  All within the palms of our hands.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Views from the Space Needle

American Icons

Architectural icons.  It seems we either love 'em or hate 'em.  The Eiffel Tower.  Big Ben.  The Statue of Liberty.  The Leaning Tower of Pisa,  And the Space Needle.  They all symbolize the city in which they are located.

Frankly, I like the Space Needle.  For one thing it was inspired by a very sensuous sculpture, "Feminine One," by David Lemon.  It is an abstract depiction of a dancer in motion.  There are, however, many locals who think the needle is ugly and liken it to a "rank weed."
The Space Needle was constructed in 1961 for the World's Fair, which was held in Seattle a year later.  From start to finish, it took only six months to build.  This fact unnerved me a bit as I rode the elevator up to the observation deck, but I was assured it was structurally sound, built to withstand 200 mph winds and a 9.1 earthquake.

Once at the top, my fears abated.  The views were amazing.  The views are what I came to see.
There's a a mini-museum and a gift shop on the ground floor and a rotating restaurant just below the observation deck.  I was tempted to buy a Space Needle pepper grinder, but I resisted.  Icons are monumental, but their miniature replicas always end up in the Goodwill bin.

Photographs are the way to go.

Photographs make perfect souvenirs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Around the World with Dale Chihuly

Travel educates.  Travel enlightens.  And in Dale Chihuly's world, travel inspires.

Before entering the Glass House and Garden in Seattle, the visitor must walk through a series of art galleries.  It is an excellent overview of Chihuly's vision and work. Each gallery is dedicated to one of his well-known glass genres.  It struck me as I walked through each room, that his inspiration was drawn from his travels.

Travel does this.  It creates a surge of energy upon returning home.  In an artist of Chihuly's caliber, that surge of energy means a masterpiece.

The American Southwest 

The Seven Seas

Persian Carpets

Tacoma, Washington
His Mother's Garden

Floats and Wooden Boats


Murano Glass

Oh, yeah . . . travel inspires.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Chihuly Garden and Glass House

The Most Beautiful Places on Earth


This is the first time I have been prompted to add an art installation to My Most Beautiful Places on Earth list, but the vibrant colors, originality and scope of these organic glass sculptures caused this traveler to weep (and I'm not embarrassed to admit it).

I could have stayed here forever.

I have seen Dale Chihuly's work before in Las Vegas and Santa Barbara and have always admired the creative genius of this man.  He took the art of glassblowing into new, unexplored territory.  Although he studied interior design in college, he fell in love with glass after enrolling in a program at the University of Wisconsin.  He had found his passion.  And never looked back.

As I walked the garden path, admiring his work, it occurred to me that the placement of the glass sculptures played an important part in the overall effect .  I was no longer in Seattle, but on some alien planet.  Tucked between bushes and rocks and underneath trees, the glass sculptures themselves metamorphosized into plants. I was not looking at glass but living, growing organisms.

Of course, the massive suspended sculpture inside the glass house is a singular work of beauty.  For one thing the palette of warm colors complements the cool blue of the sky.  A cascade of glass flowers runs the length of this greenhouse--a greenhouse which until now, existed only in my dreams.

 The Chihuly Garden and Glass House is a long term exhibition, located at the Seattle Center.  There are several galleries attached to the house, which I will write about later.   Being able to see such incredible art is a privilege that is not lost on me.  I left this amazing place with reluctance and yet, a feeling of such happiness and gratitude that I have not come down from my High. 

And that is why, my friends, the Chihuly Garden and Glass House made my Most Beautiful Places on Earth list.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Riding the Amtrak Cascades

Portland to Seattle

I left a snowbound and icy Portland, heading north to (believe it or not) a warmer, sunnier clime.  I wasn't the only tourist marveling at the downright balmy temperatures up here.  It seems the world has become a capricious and unsettled planet of late--one that continues to upset and baffle me.  That it was a full twenty degrees warmer once we hit central Washington caused me to merely shrug and utter to no one in particular.  "Uh.  Imagine that."

I boarded the train at noon and it didn't take long before frozen ponds were replaced by forests of green Douglas firs.  I grabbed a sandwich and a drink from the bistro car and settled in to enjoy the ride.  Once Mt. Rainier was framed by the window in all its glory, the entire car gasped in one collective breath.

I could feel the tension leave almost immediately.  This trip wasn't about just escaping the snow; it was about escaping the unfathomable event that is happening in Washington D.C. today.  As soon as the quiet landscape of Puget Sound appeared, I started to relax even more.  

And then the dramatic range of the Olympic Mountains appeared and I made myself a solemn vow.  I wasn't going to let today's inauguration ruin my life.  I vowed to return to this area next summer.  Tour the Olympic National Park.  Take a ferry over to the San Juan Islands.  See the Orcas cavorting in the Sound.  Then hop on another train and head east.  See North Dakota.  The Great Lakes.

Keep going.  And going.  And going.  

I'm riding the next four years out.