QUIRKY SEATTLE

A light-hearted look at some of the cool and funny stuff around Seattle.

The Seattle Great Wheel and Space Needle on the Waterfront at NiThe Seattle Great Wheel is a new 175 foot ferris wheel on the waterfront, giving people a new way to view the city, in addition to the iconic Space Needle. For a time it had frequent colorful, multi-colored light shows that lit up all the spokes of the wheel as it rotated. Neighbors in the waterfront apartments and condos complained about the bright lights of the Big Wheel, as if they had never heard of curtains, so now the light shows are just occasional.  I photographed this from the ferry departing for Bremerton.

I recently devoted part of two spring days to photographing anything that caught my eye in Seattle, and I’ve included my favorites here. Some of the photos show tourist attractions that are also of interest to the natives, such as the famous Pike Place Market. Others are random signs or scenes that simply caught my eye or tell a story. Some of these are “classic” photographs I took over the last few years.

My philosophy of photography is simply to wander around in a zen state, open to anything that moves me or intrigues my photographer’s eye. Sometimes it is artistic, sometimes raunchy, sometimes funny, sometimes interesting to others.

Smokestack and Pipes Atop Seattle Steam Co. on Seattle WaterfronSeattle is thought of as a city on the edge of technology and the new urban lifestyle, with its headquarters for Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon. Here is a retro vision of the city: the Seattle Steam Company, on the Seattle downtown waterfront, which looks like it just popped off the pages of a steam punk graphic novel.

Seattle_Waterfront_2013-24Seattle has an activist mayor, Mike McGinn, who has long advocated bike lanes and routes in the city, giving him the moniker “Mayor McSchwinn,” though I believe he cheats by using a motorized bicycle. Here he is at the Pike Place Market for a news interview, dressed as casually as the rest of us in this city that takes “casual Friday” to “casual daily.” People who love fashion tend to hate Seattle!

Car2Go Car Sharing Smart Car on a Seattle StreetWe are green in oh so many ways, and little shared cars are the latest shade of green. Car2Go is a new venture by Daimler to provide flexible transportation to all the yuppies living in high-rise apartments and condos in the heart of the city. People can rent these little Smart Cars at 38 cents per minute, $13.99 per hour, or $72.99 for 24 hours. Just register for the service, find a car on your iPhone (they’re parked wherever people left them around the city), open the car lock somehow digitally, and take off. The company pays for gas. When you’re through, just park it in a legal spot along a city street. There are now something like 400 of these around the city; fortunately they don’t take much space.

Seattle_Waterfront_2013-43Flying fish are a staple at the Pike Place Market. In this case a huge salmon is headed into the arms of a waiting fishmonger. These guys have such a sense of fun and teamwork that there are whole books about their philosophy; in fact, everyone on the fish team signed a book bought by a tourist at the stall while I watched. Just beware of the monkfish, which bit my nephew!

Razor Wire Topping Chain Link Fence in SeattleThis is where they put Seattleites who don’t like coffee, rain, or liberal politics.

Seattle_Signs-2I love this sign, which is based on the Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Jimmy Stewart. It also reminds me of the opening sequence of Mad Men.

Seattle_Pea_Patch-5In the heart of the city, there is part of a city block devoted to a community garden, with lots of small plots for urban dwellers to grow vegetables and flowers–some to give to a food bank. This “Pea Patch,” as it is officially known, is located on extremely valuable land near the REI flagship store and the burgeoning offices of Amazon and biomedical research companies, and it is part of a system of Pea Patches throughout Seattle. The green space gives the eye a sense of relief from all the boring offices and condos. 

Seattle_November_2011-7Sometimes Seattle’s graffiti reminds me of my days in Ann Arbor, when students would do weird and cool stuff. Here the sign defacement apparently refers to a U2 song that I love (but I didn’t deface the sign; I would have done a neater job of it!).

Ivy growing on Support Column of Alaskan Waly Viaduct in SeattleSeattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, built in the early 1950s, is a relic of the past that still carries thousands upon thousands of vehicles on two levels along State Route 99 over the waterfront. Damaged in the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake (which also cracked the foundation of our house), the massive concrete viaduct is not long for this world. It is being replaced by a tunnel that is about to be bored. And, speaking of boring, the tunnel will not be as beautiful an experience as the viaduct, but it will open up the waterfront on Elliot Bay, making a much more pleasant experience for tourists and other pedestrians.

Seattle_Waterfront-47Jumbo Shipping brought the cutter for boring the new tunnel all the way from Osaka, Japan; here it is being unloaded on the waterfront. The boring machine, named Bertha, will dig a 57.5′ diameter wormhole under Seattle that will carry some of the traffic now carried by the viaduct. The problem is, there is going to be a toll on the tunnel, so notoriously skinflint Seattleites will skirt the tunnel, massively clogging the city streets. Such is urban planning in the land of the cheap.

Seattle_Waterfront_2013-40Ah, the Dungeness Crab. Found in waters off the Washington and Oregon coasts, this ferocious looking beast is among the tastiest crabs anywhere. We sometimes get them and use a pair of nutcrackers and some cocktail stirrers to get at the meat inside the claws. For these dinners, Karen accuses me of making her work for her dinner. The crab, dipped in melted butter with a touch of lemon juice, is deep water heaven.

Seattle_Waterfront_2013-45Beneath the waters of Puget Sound lives the biggest octopus in the world–far, far larger than this one–the Giant Octopus. Ferry boats and sailboats use special radar to avoid these octopuses, which can pull a boat down into the depths with two of their giant, suction-cupped arms. Or so the legend goes …

Elephant_Car_Wash-2Urbane and sophisticated Seattle: the pink Elephant Car Wash stands near the shores of Lake Union, now the place where thousands of Amazon engineers write endless code to sell us stuff (I think most of their stuff is shipped to me!).

Sign for Trolley that Once Moved People along Seattle WaterfrontUntil several years ago there was a trolley that ferried people back and forth along the waterfront, so that people didn’t have to walk to get a bowl of clam chowder at Ivar’s or see the shrunken heads and two-headed lamb at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. The transportation department apparently didn’t get the memo that the trolley was permanently parked. 

Seattle_Waterfront_2013-37Beautiful morel mushrooms at $59.90 per pound–that’s immorel! Plus there are fern fiddleheads at $12.95 per pound, and multicolored carrots and hedgehog mushrooms and so much more at the Pike Place Market. Dine on the bleeding edge, if your bank account can stand it.

Shadows on Union Stairway on the Seattle WaterfrontEven the shadows in Seattle are artistic. Some artist probably has a copyright on these shadows and will sue me for publishing them in my blog (Seattle has several artist/litigators who have sued the pants off photographers. Well, maybe not literally.)

Seattle_Signs-1Love the name. Alas, the Year of the Monkey must be over, because construction workers were remodeling the building’s interior when I sauntered by. It had been a store featuring imported furniture and home accessories from Asia.

Lusty_Lady-2The Lusty Lady peep show was a downtown fixture for decades, and its marquee featured witty sayings. For example, when the Seattle Art Museum opened across the street, with its huge iconic sculpture “Hammering Man,” the marquee said “Hammer Away, Big Boy!” Alas, all good things cum to an end, and this was one of the last clever sayings. Internet porn apparently killed the desire for real porn.

Seattle_Waterfront-657This looks like one of those giant octopuses under Puget Sound, but it is an early warning floating radar system that is normally anchored off Alaska. I hope that, after repairs, it is now back in place monitoring North Korean incoming missiles. Mount Rainier stands in the distance, ready to blow up at the slightest provocation, much like North Korea.

Hat 'N' Boots Seattle

Hat 'N' Boots SeattleHat and Boots served as an iconic gas station for several decades, with the hat serving as the office and the boots as cowboys and cowgirls restrooms. Alas, the boots of progress stomped out this business, but the heroic citizens of Seattle rescued the Hat and Boots, like John Wayne rescuing the madam with a heart of gold,  for use in a city park.

Seattle_Waterfront_2013-30Enough of my silly pictures; this one from the Pike Place Market can melt the hearts of all the girls; after all, who doesn’t LOVE tulips and the coming of spring?

The Seattle Great Wheel on the Waterfront at NightBig Wheel keep on toinin’ …

Seattle City Skyline at Night Viewed from a Washington State FerAlas, time to head back across the sound to where the little people live.

To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com (just ask me to email you a small version of a particular photograph you like if you can’t find it on the site; my website is not up to date) 

To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website.

DETROIT METRO: Motor City Magic

Detroit has had a hard road for decades. In this post I tell a bit about Detroit’s history, while highlighting the wonderful experience of the Light Tunnel and other features of Detroit Metro Airport.

Walking through the Light Tunnel at Detroit Metro Airport

Detroit was my hometown. Don’t laugh: it was a great place to live in the ’50s and ’60s. I grew up listening to Motown on the radio and saw Bob Seger live at the local teen center years before his mid-1970s success. We had the Cranbrook Institute of Science for cultural visits, and one of the best metropolitan park systems in the world. My suburban school gave me a wonderful college prep education. The Great Lakes provided summer fun, and “up north” beckoned with wonderful adventures. Many families owned cottages on lakes and rivers in this land of lakes. My Dad was an engineer at GM, and many of the neighborhood men in our leafy suburb also worked for the Big 3. It was a lively place to grow up, with the kinetic energy of the postwar boom driving an economy that had its pedal to the floor.

I remember my Dad coming home one evening, eagerly sketching out the tail fins he had just seen the designers produce for the brand new 1959 Chevy Impala. We had a new Chevy or Pontiac in the driveway every year, and the auto industry seemed like the pulsing heartbeat of America. The Corvette, Ford Mustang, Plymouth Barracuda, and Chevy Camero were the muscle cars that all the young guys lusted after. Cruising Woodward Avenue was the thing to do on warm weekend nights.

Alas, whoever was driving Detroit’s economy applied the brakes. Hard. Early signs of trouble came with the racial tensions between blacks and whites during a decade of discontent, culminating in a major riot (which some might justifiably call an uprising) during the long, hot summer of 1967. Fires and fights raged all over the city, with the National Guard and 82nd Airborne called in to restore order. The racial divide has continued, with 8 Mile Road dividing mostly black Detroit from the mostly white northern suburbs. Hip hop artist Eminem famously referenced this road and divide in his music.

Next came the ’70s, with oil shocks and the early popularity of imports giving Detroit a two-punch warning of the beating to come. As oil uncertainties continued, the baby boomers decided that cars from America’s prior enemies were cooler to drive than Detroit muscle, which had, in any event, been tamed by new mileage standards. Jobs were starting to evaporate with cost-cutting, oursourcing, and sharing the sales with the Japanese; guys with high school educations had trouble getting good union assembly line jobs like their dads had held before them.

Whites had been abandoning the city for decades by now, and the Motor City began depopulating as opportunities dried up and the twin thugs of crime and misery held the city hostage. The road down was long and potholed, and today much of Detroit is barren of houses and business, and there is talk of farming what used to be residential neighborhoods. The story of Detroit is like a story of Armageddon, with a once-rich civilization fallen into ruins. It makes me think of Cormac McCarthy’s terrifying book, The Road.

There is no point in trying to blame anyone or any single event for the devastation of Detroit; it is what it is. All we can do is look to the future.

Which is what I did on this brief trip to the McNamara Terminal of Detroit Metro Airport. This terminal is my favorite of any airport I’ve ever been to, with a great fountain, an overhead tram, and some nostalgic shops and restaurants that celebrate the Motor City. Another point in this terminal’s favor is that my brother helped build it, including installing moving sidewalks.

The best part of a visit to McNamara Terminal is walking through the Light Tunnel, an underground walkway connecting Concourse A with Concourses B & C. The Light Tunnel, designed by Mills James Productions and featuring glass art by Foxfire Glass Works and a musical composition by Victor Alexeeff, is an experience to reawaken your sense of wonder for flying, with ever-changing LED lights behind long cast glass panels. Rather than describe it, I’ll let the pictures paint a visual impression of walking through the airport. There are moving sidewalks on each side of the tunnel, with a wide promenade for walking between the concourses. I took most of the pictures from the moving sidewalks, which kept me occupied for at least half-an-hour while waiting for my plane. Great fun!

A montage of images of the ever-changing light show

Mother and child and Boeing 747, through the lively fountain

The beautiful fountain, created by WET Design, uses laminar flow of water in ever-changing patterns; it took inspiration from the flight maps that show the curving routes of airplanes as they travel from city to city around the curve of the earth

A view showing the long Light Tunnel

Detail of lovely cast glass backlit by LED lights in the Light Tunnel

A camera’s proof that aliens live among us

If your travels take you to or through Detroit on Delta, don’t miss the Light Tunnel!

To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website