Friday, February 21, 2014

Sounds from the Seattle World's Fair: Audio Postcards

A couple weeks ago I picked an awesome set of drinking glasses from the Seattle World's Fair that was held in 1962. The fair gave us our iconic Space Needle, the monorail, and helped put Seattle on the map (literally in many cases). It was supposed to be a preview of our tomorrow in space and what life would be like in Century 21.

It also came with a huge marketing campaign. Movies, commercials, celebrity appearances, and music were all part of a big push to make sure that people actually showed up. As part of this, there was a series of postcard records put out with Century 21 themed songs. When I picked up my glasses, they vendor threw in this one for free:

I had to know what was on it. It turns out that there are bunch of them and thanks to a music fan out of LA, we have a chance to hear them. He's got a description of each track, so be sure to check out his post before you click here to download the ZIP file (thanks Mr Fab!) and take a listen to these pieces of nearly lost music from the fair. The track list is below:
  1. "Invitation To The Fair" - Joe Juma
  2. "World's Fair Seattle" - Billy Earles 
  3. "Summer of '62 - Ronnie Draper and the Fordomatics
  4. "Cafe in The Sky" - Kelly Gates
  5. Gayway Twist" - the Frantics
  6. "Come and See Seattle" - Frank Sugia Trio & Naomi 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Touring while Local: Chihuly Garden and Glass

Dale Chihuly is widely known as being a master of squiggly glass sculptures. While today he is not directly involved in the production of the glass that he is known for (He considers himself more of a "director"), the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at the Seattle Center contains the bulk of his corpus of work. If you are a fan of Chihuly, this is your place.*

The price to get in is $19, which is a buck more than going up the Space Needle. There are combo passes available that make it slightly cheaper to do both ($33 for both. If you are coming all the way to Seattle and doing the tourist sites, how could you not do the Space Needle?). King County residents get in for the low, low price of $15 per person (and they didn't even check our IDs to confirm it). Once inside, there is about an hour plus of things to see, perhaps a little more if you become absorbed into the artwork.

I can definitely see how much of this was groundbreaking and experimental when it was first coming out and becoming popular. There are plenty of vivid colors and shapes that come together to create the scenes and the larger sculptures are impressive from a technical standpoint: There are hundreds of pieces suspended from a metal "skeleton" and each time it is moved to a new location, the exact shape and composition of the sculpture changes. On the other hand, it does feel a little like his work is pretty mainstream now and the video at the end of him "directing" feels a little ludicrous: 15 minutes of someone telling a team of minions "No, move it three inches to the left" is supposed to be mind altering art? At times the museum comes off as a little too pretentious. As if anything done by Chihuly is automatically the highest example of art that you have ever had the honor of witnessing.

Being from Seattle, I think that there is a bit of Chihuly burnout. We have had his stuff all over Seattle and the region for years, but for many people this may be their first time seeing it. It IS impressive and many people who visit Seattle visit the museum rate it very highly. In fact, right now this is the number one attraction in Seattle on TripAdvisor.

*If you like glass in general and would like to see a broader collection, you may also consider the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. While there, there is also the new LeMay Car Museum and the Tacoma Museum of Art

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Touring while Local: Argosy Locks Cruise

Seattle is a city permeated with water. There is the Puget Sound to the west, Lake Union in the middle, and Lake Washington to the East, all of which are connected by cuts and canals. Before highways, planes, and trains the water was the way to get around the Puget Sound. At one time, Seattle was a hub for a mosquito fleet that could take you anywhere around the Sound. While those days are gone, Seattle's maritime tradition and natural beauty remain an asset to the city.

Getting on to the water is a great way to see Seattle from a different angle. I've written about the half-hour excursion to Bainbridge Island several times before (here, here, here, and here), but another popular way to get on the water in Seattle is provided by Argosy Cruises. As part of my effort to tour while local, I tried out their Lake Union and Ballard Locks Cruise.

The tour starts out on the waterfront. This is the main dock for Argosy cruises and most cruises leave from here. However, this particular one starts out with a short bus ride from the waterfront to Lake Union. Once there, you board near Kenmore Air just across from the Museum of History and Industry. In the photo above, you can also see the Virginia V which is one of the last remaining mosquito fleet steamers.

The tour takes you from Lake Union, by the houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle, under the Fremont bridge, past the Alaskan fishing boats, through the Ballard Locks, and finally out into the Sound to come back to the waterfront. All the while, staff gives the story of that things that are sailing past you.

Once past fisherman's wharf, it is off to the Ballard Locks. The Locks, a piece of infrastructure, are actually one of the top tourist destinations for the city (number 15 on TripAdvisor) and the cruise is a unique way to experience it. In order to leave the lake and go into the Puget Sound, the boat must go through the Locks. Completed in 1917, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks as they are officially know allow boats to traverse the 20+ foot sea level difference between the lake and the Sound.

Once outside of the Ballard Locks, you are on the Puget Sound where you will round Magnolia and head into Elliot Bay to the waterfront. On a clear day, the sound will give beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains, Mt. Rainier, and the city itself. Mt. Rainier in particular seems to loom larger than usual from right around the tip of Magnolia. Coming closer, you'll get excellent views of the Space Needle and the cityscape when you draw near to the docks and the end of the tour.

This particular tour goes for $41. If you are visiting and looking to save some money, Washington State ferries provide another way to get on the water. At $8 per person on foot round trip (there is no fare headed west for foot passengers), it doesn't show off the city to the same degree but does lend itself to afternoon trips to Bainbridge Island. A middle option that still offers a guided tour with less cost and time commitment is the harbor cruise that Argosy offers for $24 a person. It is their most popular tour and you still get the views of the mountain, sound, and city. Either way, seeing the city from the water is sure to give a unique perspective on the city and be a fun afternoon.