PacNW 2016: Episode VII: Arts and Leisure

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And so, after two full days and two half-days of birding, I was reunited with my beloved. Kelly, Q, and Jaspher were sharing a room in the Issaquah hotel where the con had been, and I would be spending my last night in Seattle in that room. There were, however, a few semi-official con activities happening on Sunday evening--if I recall correctly, a viewing of Magic Mike II was involved--and there was still one thing I hadn't yet done: reconnect with one of my oldest friends, Mr. William Shoemaker Flash.

(He mostly goes by William or Bill these days, but in our days on the Rainbow Soccer field or in the halls of Culbreth Junior High, he was known universally as "Willie." With a deliberate effort, I have been able to make the transition to "Will," but to me, "Bill Flash" was his dad, and I can't quite get my head around the idea of calling WSF Jr. by that name.)

During my years at Culbreth, Will was one of my very closest friends, a fellow soccer player and budding musician (alto & tenor sax) whose goofball sense of humor was accompanied by a calming and genuinely thoughtful demeanor. As I worked through one of humanity's great cases of social anxiety--hell-LO seventh grade--he was there to give me pointers, or a steadying hand, or just a nice non-judgmental laugh at one of my bizarre jokes. The summer after eighth grade (1977), he invited me to come spend three weeks at his family's place in Quebec.

To call that experience formative is to understate the case considerably. While there on the shore of Lac Perchaud, I became an expert at paddling (and capsizing, and bailing out) a canoe, fired a shotgun for the first time, kissed a girl for what might have been the third time, and learned that I could survive without electricity; the family compound had numerous cabins, but all were lit by oil lamps and heated with wood. I caught fish, shot targets with a .22, and for the first time discovered one of the most important books of my life: Catch-22. Mrs. Flash was extraordinarily patient with me, considering I was a babbling, hormone-ridden middle schooler, and would very patiently ask me to go to another room or another cabin when she just could't take any more; her firm but calm handling of the situation made a definite impression on the way I handle both parenting and teaching.

For his part, Will was the perfect partner, teaching me to play pool and joining in whatever weird role-playing might be necessary; for some reason we were fixated on South Moluccan terrorists that summer, and we would still sometimes use snorkels as guns and pretend to be taking hostages or something. He was also instrumental in introducing me to new music, which he accomplished via his portable cassette player and a lot of batteries. As he was a fan of funk and soul, I was taken in directions I hadn't much explored for myself, and two albums in particular--the Isley Brothers' Go for Your Guns and Earth Wind & Fire's Spirit--were basically carved into my brain by the time we left. It was a grand summer vacation, and even getting to see Star Wars in the theater when I got home couldn't compare.

But Will headed off to boarding school a few years later, then attended Guilford U while I was at UNC. We saw each other occasionally in our twenties, particularly when I talked him into bringing his horn to become a member of Rohrwaggon, the Triangle's short-lived but legendary ska revue. This clip shows us both pretty clearly; I'm over on the right in hat and suspenders, playing keyboards and singing backup. Will's spot onstage was at the far left of the horn section, but for this song he ditched his alto sax, jumped into the crowd, and danced like a maniac, even (at the 1:18 mark) bowing down before lead singer Marvin Levi.

Soon after that night, however, I got married and dove into grad school and teaching and parenthood and stuff, while he headed out west, working as a musician, filmmaker, and whatever else he felt like, because he's multi-talented. We lost track of each other during the Nineties and Oughts. Eventually he wound up in the Seattle area, working for Microsoft as a maker of videos, and we reconnected on Facebook, like you do. He still came back to see family and friends in Chapel Hill, but since I was rarely there, we didn't have much opportunity for visiting. Until now.

The bad news, however, was that this was a week when he was swamped with work, so finding a time for us to meet had proved rather challenging. Luckily, Sunday evening was a time when I was done with birding and basically on my own, so we decided it was time to grab dinner and catch up.

Naturally, this was the one night on the entire trip when I forgot to bring my camera, so you'll just have to trust me when I say we had a terrific meal of sushi and beer (the latter supplied by Mac & Jack's Brewing Company of Redmond, WA) and I got to meet both his wife Denine and their delightful daughter Audrey before he dropped me back at the hotel. I'm hoping we don't go another two decades without some face-to-face hang time.

After sleeping in the same bed with my wife for the first time in what seemed like ages, we vaulted out of bed to join Q and Jaspher for a big meal at local breakfast joint The Egg & Us. I had invited Tina so that Kelly would get a chance to bask in her awesomeness and vice-versa, and so I could buy her a meal, feeling that was the least I could do. Our lengthy and uproarious repast completed, Tina made yet another generous offer: since our plan was to head into town with Q and Jaspher for a last afternoon of tourism, she would let us load our luggage into her car for the day, meet us at the EMP Museum, and drive us to the airport.

Not being stupid, we accepted this offer.

Soon after, the four of us were on the bus downtown to the EMP, one of the strangest museums you'll ever see. It has a marvelous mix of architectural elements, and I have to say I love the way it contrasts with the organic forms outside it:

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As best I can tell, it's largely a space for Paul Allen to show all the cool stuff he bought after co-founding Microsoft. "Experience Music Project" is supposedly the origin of the name, and given that there is a Hendrix collection, there's some reason to believe that, but really, I think calling it "Paul Allen's Attic" would be fairly accurate. Pop culture is celebrated in a bewildering number of ways: while we were there, we spotted exhibits on the Seattle Seahawks (which Allen owns), on Nirvana, on independent video games, on Nintendo games, and not least on Hello Kitty. The latter exhibit was the home of Super Space Titan Kitty, a rather unsettling humanoid statue of HK, a particularly disturbing bit of which you can see below:

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The full-figure version can be seen here if you turn your head or your monitor sideways:

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What we were mostly there to see, however, were the museum's collections of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror geekery. These did not disappoint.

The fantasy section may have been my favorite. For one thing, I have to love a collection that just features a couple of old paperbacks. Instead of gargantuan illustrations of the battle of Helm's Deep, or statues of Ghan-Buri-Ghan and the Wild Men, or reproductions of the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, we see the glorious (if unauthorized) work in which all of the above were contained, plus a letter from Tolkien to a U of Washington professor:

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If that's not enough to stir your imagination, consider this relic: one of the original "brown books," which contained the earliest version of the rules and information for Dungeons and Dragons:

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There were, however, a number of more visually striking items, including Bert Lahr's lion suit from The Wizard of Oz, costumes for The Princess Bride's Inigo Montoya, Buttercup, Westley, and the six-finger Count Rugen, and this array of weaponry from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy:

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That's Gimli's axe, Bilbo's sword Sting, and Aragorn's sword (NOT Anduril, Flame of the West) from The Fellowship of the Ring.

And yeah, I couldn't suppress my laughter when I spotted this choice item from the ramparts of the Castle Aaargh:

DSC03341.JPGThe horror section was very enjoyable, with numerous video clips from films and interviews with directors John Landis, Eli Roth, and Roger Corman, who made some of the films and curated others. There were also plenty of props from horror shows and movies, but they didn't show up as well in photos, alas, so you'll have to trust me again: if you want to see Mr. Pointy, the stake from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Shaun's red-stained work shirt from Shaun of the Dead, or the poster for (Attack of) The Giant Leeches (which inspired one of my favorite MST3K episodes ever), you should definitely hit the EMP.

The science fiction section had some wonderful items, including the full-body Sarris suit worn by Robin Sachs in Galaxy Quest and the clingy red dress worn by Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica, but again, my photos weren't great (and the latter is a bit disappointing when it doesn't actually contain Tricia Helfer.)

All in all, it was a visit well worth making, and I'm glad we got to do one more bit of pure tourism before heading home. But it was in fact time to head home. We posed outside the EMP for a couple of pictures while we waited for Tina's arrival. I took this one:

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But we knew our time was up: Tina pulled into the driveway of the museum, and we hugged Q and Jaspher and headed for the airport. We had intentionally arrived early enough to get through TSA security, find somewhere to eat, and watch the NCAA basketball championship, but given the results of the latter, I'd rather not go into much detail about the evening. Let's just say that we landed in Philadelphia to the sight of snow flurries--pretty much the opposite of the Seattle weather we enjoyed--and made it home in time for Kelly to stagger into the library for her Tuesday shift. I don't know how she did it either.

And that was my first trip to the Pacific Northwest. It will not be my last.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on June 11, 2016 2:10 PM.

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