Month: September 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

My father, the architect

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One of the last things I did in Seattle was hunt down this building. It’s not hidden or anything; it sits plainly on the corner of Marion St. and 5th Ave. It’s got a little café in the ground floor. And a newsstand. But I didn’t know any of that when I set out to find it. All knew was what my father had told me over the phone. Vague memories from decades ago.

4th Ave. About 35 stories tall. Cross-hatching support beams that you can see from the outside. I think it’s brown with black windows. And it used to be owned by a bank.

Some of those things are true. Others are not.

The reason my dad wanted me to find this building is that he had been part of the team that designed it, back when he worked for a big architectural firm. He has always done that: pointed out bits of history that are interesting or important to him, thinking they’ll be interesting or important to everyone else too. Growing up I thought it was cool, then lame, then annoying, then endearing. Now that I’m an adult, I think it’s all of those things at once.

Scanning the skyline from the Bainbridge ferry and later the Seattle monorail, I saw a handful of possible candidates, including one that I desperately hoped was not his, because it looked like “some ugly federal building.” But upon closer inspection, none of them had the cross-hatching support beams that my dad swore would confirm his building’s identity. It was like a litmus test, or a birthmark.

Fueled by a sense of daughterly duty, I decided to reserve my last morning in Seattle for tracking down my dad’s building. The strap of my duffel bag dug into my shoulder as I hiked up and down the hills, certain that somehow I could find this thing. Certain that my dad’s role in the project would echo through the years and serve as a homing beacon for me to follow.

That did not happen.

In the end, it took another phone call to my dad — who now said that the building was white or silver, not brown, and that it had retail space at the bottom — with an assist from Google to figure out which building it was. But then, at long last, I found it. Better yet: I liked it.

Though it was built 30 years ago, it still looks modern. There is good attention to detail (at least from what I could see) and those cross-hatching beams are subtle, but nice. After taking it all in, I went inside — and I found myself hoping that I would have to sign in at a security desk, or at least that I would look lost enough for someone to ask me what I was doing there. And then I could say, “Oh, I’m here because my dad’s an architect. He designed this building.”

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Chihuly in photos

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More Chihuly. #seattle Have I mentioned: Chihuly? #seattle
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Author-friends and the Panama Hotel

First, some quick backstory:

  • Once upon a time, I saw HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET in a bookstore, saw that the author (Jamie) was coming to do a reading/signing, realized he was a fellow halfie, and decided to check it out. Bought the book and loved it. Friended Jamie on Twitter.
  • Fast forward a couple years, and Google launches their Hangouts feature, which lets you video chat with multiple people. Jamie starts hosting Wednesday Writer’s Hangouts. I join in and meet a bunch of cool peeps, including Aprilynne Pike, Ben L.J. Brooks, and Dustin Hansen.
  • Fast forward another year or so, to 2013, and I decide to visit Seattle over Labor Day. Jokingly, I tell Jamie, Ben, Aprilynne and Dustin that we should all meet up there. To my surprise, they agree. In fact, they book their hotels before I’ve even bought my plane tickets! Holy crap, this is really happening.

So about halfway through my Seattle trip, I took a break from sight-seeing to join this elite literary cadre for tea, pho, and a special tour of the Panama Hotel. The hotel’s owner (who knows and loves Jamie) even took us down to the sento — the only Japanese bath house in Seattle that’s still intact.

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It was pretty amazing to get a “VIP” look at this historic site — the hotel being where many Japanese families stowed their belongings during the WWII internment. And it was so fun to hang out with my author-friends in person. (Sadly Dustin had to cancel at the last minute, but he was there with us in spirit.) All four of them are further along the writer-path than I am — what with Jamie and Aprilynne being New York Times bestsellers (!!) and Ben and Dustin agented and on submission — so it’s inspiring and informative to hear them talk about their journeys. They’re so different from one another, and yet each one is driven by the same thing I feel in my own heart: A love of stories. A belief that words and what we say with them are important. A desire to share our imaginations with others.

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(Last photo yoinked from Jamie Ford.)

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Seattle in photos

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Sculptures in Bloedel Reserve. #seattle #bainbridgeisland Gorgeous portrait in the visitors center at Bloedel Reserve. #seattle #bainbridgeisland
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Obligatory Space Needle shot. #seattle #landmarked Experience Music Project. #seattle #landmarked #gehry
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Taylor and Katy (and me?)

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More than once, I have joked that I wanted to be the Taylor Swift of writing. Meaning that I wanted to become a hot-shot novelist in my teens (and ideally continue to put out hits for the rest of my life). Obviously my teens have come and gone and that didn’t happen. But it’s all good. Maybe I can be the Katy Perry of writing instead?

Recently I watched both Taylor and Katy’s biopic/concert movies, and I came to some realizations:

  1. They work really hard. Yes, they’re doing what they love, and the’ve managed to become rich and famous from it. But that doesn’t take anything away from all the heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears they put into their music. And in addition to the singing and songwriting, they spend a lot of time designing their concerts, rehearsing and performing and marketing their work, connecting with fans, and making decisions that impact the dozens (if not hundreds) of people in their employ. They are in fact young businesswomen. It’s impressive, humbling, and inspiring.
  2. They have achieved a lot of success at very young ages, but it didn’t happen overnight. Both struggled to be taken seriously, to be allowed to express themselves in the way that they wanted. At one point, Taylor walked away from a good opportunity with a major record label because she believed that she could do better. She ended up taking a chance on a startup, and together they skyrocketed to the top. (Guts!) Katy spent years bouncing between record labels, all of whom knew she was talented but weren’t sure how to market her and thus were reluctant to invest. Despite the frustrations, she always went back to the music, writing songs and playing gigs until finally someone decided to back her all the way — and even handed her the reins. (Perseverance!)
  3. I think part of what appeals to people (certainly to me) about their music is how much of themselves they put into it. Their personal experiences, their emotions, their style. Taylor is infamous for writing about her famous ex-boyfriends, and Katy makes no secret that many of her recent hits are about her the ups and downs of her relationship with Russell Brand. Some people think that’s tacky; I think it’s brave and endearing. I can relate to their excitement, their doubts, their hopes, their heartaches. And it makes their songs stand out from some of the more generic stuff.
  4. As much as I might joke about wanting to be the Taylor or Katy of writing — and as many similarities as there may be between our dreams (artistry, storytelling, entertaining the masses, etc.) — one key difference is that being a pop star usually requires a youthful appeal. They probably have a limited window of opportunity for mainstream success, whereas writers are not judged by the marketability of their faces/bodies, but by the quality marketability of their stories.
  5. At one point, Katy’s sister talks about how people were trying to get Katy to be the next Britney, or the next Avril, or whoever, and how she never wanted to be the next anybody. She wanted to be the first Katy. Good point. I don’t want to be the next JK Rowling, the next Stephenie Meyer, or the next Suzanne Collins. I want to be the first Kristan.
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