Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hey Los Angeles

The last few visits to Los Angeles (LA) were made when I was barely of legal age to drink in this town. Those were purely outings to theme parks meshed with some rather torturous family trips, and quite a lot of meals at terrible Chinese-American diners. But from what I remember of LA and well, what I've seen on tv aren't enough to entice me to return as a tourist. My favorite memories are of California's natural parks and mountains. You know those. I'd return again and again.

Between the man and I, over the years, we've somehow separately accumulated good friends who're now residing in LA. This trip is pretty focused- stopping by to say hello to the friends. Coming into town from the airport, fresh out of Seattle, LA is jarring. Between the airport baggage claim to the hotel room, to have five people cheerily tell us "Oh I'm an actor/in film school/going to be an actor", there was no doubt that we had indeed arrived at Hollywood stronghold.

[And TSA decided to lose two of my locks on a domestic flight. I knew it!]

It's also like we brought the rains. They kept saying SoCal doesn't storm. It did, with hurricane-force winds. But the flat desert city of LA and beyond aren't made for storms. Widespread power outages, mudslides, rockslides and floods hit SoCal. And schools were closed for the day. Lake Tahoe saw seven-foot waves and instead of skiers, the surfers caught those waves. Heh. It cleared up and is forecasted to rain for the rest of the week. Much needed to break this drought. California needs to replenish Lake Mead four times over and build up their groundwater reserves again. But the rains are comforting; reminds me of Seattle. I love that.

Overlooking Sunset Boulevard and far in the distance, Santa Monica beach.

Porters & Stouts

I avoid lagers and pilsners. And witbier. Prefer darker ales of brown or amber. Clearly I wouldn't bother with Guinness here. It'll never be the creamy dessert version that's fantastic in northwest England and Ireland. Love stouts- oatmeal, vanilla, peanut butter, chocolate, coffee whatever. Love 'em rich. A glance at the photos confirmed that I'm drinking pretty much nothing but porters and stouts this trip. There're the hearty WA porters and the seemingly lighter CA stouts. Perhaps it's something to do with the weather. The cold made the idea of a porter or a stout more attractive.

Beer calories are stacking up of course. But it's not as if I'm having oily pub grub or burgers along with a drink. Hate deep fried pub grub. Don't think I've had fries here at all. The beer belly is firmly tucked in without a sign of it threatening to spill out. It's kinda balanced out by sessions of barre and pilates and plenty of walking. The man makes a conscious effort to go to the gym every other day. Muahahaha.

Hanging out at the friends' mean that beer is always present in the fridge. Pale ales work. Even better when it's a stout and poured into a cold glass on a chilly evening seated next to the fireplace. These are evenings when one pint makes for a satisfying drink. And that would be all that's required to make a great night out.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Byeeee Seattle!

Very pleased I could tag along with the man on his work trips to King County. I'm not particularly entertaining company inflight though. I kinda sleep through each sector. Hehehe. In Singapore, it's easier to partition out alone-time. On vacations, the man has gotten used to me portioning out alone-time as well. We don't do well with seeing each other 24/7. These work trips are a fabulous way of finding a balance in terms of our time together.

Like I said, in this season of life, Seattle is my favorite US city. Love the vibes and food, love the sunshine and its green and blue, love the grey and the rain. It was gorgeous simply skipping through the streets in the rain. The rains aren't monsoon-style pelting down. The light sprinkling or a drizzle is almost magical. An umbrella works occasionally, but a parka or a raincoat is best for a sense of liberation. Feel the rain. It's thin, cold and kinda refreshing. Tropical raindrops at home are fat, juicy and warm. Both are nice. Just different.

We'd have to find another trip to take a jaunt up to the mountains. King County has so much nature that it's impossible not to embrace it. Importantly, the humans are cool. Our friends are awesome. Each experience in the city is something new and generally welcomed. I can always find positivity in most things. It's not difficult to see a city through rose-tinted lenses when we're tourists. Even better when we gain extra time to understand more about it.

See ya again Seattle.

The holiday gingerbread display at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle.

Hanging Out With Many Humans

Ate out lots of course, but on a long trip, it's always nice to sit down to homecooked meals. Except we know how much effort and trouble it takes to prepare a meal. So we're pretty wary when invited to the friends' homes for a meal during this season. Don't want to put them out with all the trouble.

Also mindful about asking people out because it involves arranging a babysitter, shifting regular schedules to accommodate our dates, and traveling up to an hour to get somewhere. Most people don't live in downtown Seattle and on this trip, we opted to stay in a downtown hotel. We'd rather be the ones traveling out. Silly Uber is extremely idiotic with its terrible public relations management, controversial corporate and customer policies. But it's really useful to us here. It's easy getting around because of the convenience of an uber ride.

Can't believe how the friends took time out to meet us regardless of the rain. I think everyone's used to it. Even more fun when stumbling across friends-who-don't-live-in-Seattle at random cafes, and found time to stay for a cup of coffee and discover we would be heading to the same gigs in the evenings. Love how each date simply falls into place fairly easily.

It's amazing how many firm friendships exist in this city, old and new. Buddies of two decades, acquaintances of a few years, and friends whom we've forged strong ties through shared experiences, and new links which we would like to meet again. These are renewed upon each visit. Makes coming here so much happier. So glad we made it to your city. Thank you so much lovelies. It's always great hanging out.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Bloedel Reserve

Hopped onto a ferry to Bainbridge Island in Kitsap County. Head downtown to Pier 52 and one could just walk on to the ferry or drive/cycle/bike onto the ferry. Unfortunately we didn't drive, so we couldn't do any major exploration to Fort Ward Park or Fay Bainbridge State Park. The island has zero public transportation available, so please arrange your own. The parks all have campsites with restrooms and fresh water. It would be nice to come back here in an RV for the weekend.

The murder on San Piedro Island in Puget Sound from David Guterson's 'Snow Falling on Cedars' is based on actual events that happened on Bainbridge Island. During World War II, under President Roosevelt's order, Bainbridge Island Japanese-American families were among the first of 120,000 to be sent to internment camps during World War II. 227 mostly American men, women and children from Bainbridge spent four years in an Idaho camp. Now, most families living on the island produce berries. Loads of lovely berries. I would like to come here in spring or summer to walk its Fairy Dell Trail.

We're not prepped for any serious trail walking. Took an easy stroll within The Bloedel Reserve. 150 acres are more than enough for us to explore before sunset. There're little trails in the woods, a Japanese garden and a reflection pool, and of course Prentice Bloedel's (of MacMillan Bloedel Timber Company) former residence from 1951 to 1986. The Reserve is a labor of Bloedel's love for landscaping and architecture.

As luck would have it, on the day we went, it poured. At least it was 12°C, not -2°C. The winds were fierce. No problem. We were in weather-resistant clothing, bags and shoes. Tech gadgets went into waterproof pouches and securely fastened within another waterproof large pouch. It meant we couldn't walk with phones or cameras in hand. No worries. As it is, I whip out the camera and the phone too often. Instead, we walked faster with our eyes to the horizon, taking in the scenery, and committed every sight to memory.

A convenient 35-minute ferry ride to downtown Seattle, Bainbridge Island has only approximately 25,000 residents. I guess internet works great. Our cellphones had top-notch data speeds. Saw much green, and felt the slower pace of life on the island. There's nothing much going on and that's precisely what's lovely about it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Handmade Cards and Tags

Wrote all my Christmas cards in Seattle and sent them out. The first batch got to the recipients safe. Woohooo. Let's hope the second batch gets to where they need to go. Started Christmas shopping really early this year. Had loads of gifts to lug along this trip which had to be bought in Singapore. Needed gift tags.

Lyn of littlebluebottle was making cards and gift tags in a meaningful effort to raise funds for Radion International. The non-profit is run by Eugene Wee. Immediately ordered a bunch. Orders are closed now. But she does make these lovely cards whenever an occasion rolls around. Check her blog for updates! I've arranged for various mail items and parcels to be forwarded to Seattle. So glad that Lyn completed the tags and cards so fast for delivery to the Singapore address that the package ultimately got here just slightly after Thanksgiving. Perfect timing.

Opened up the envelope and sighed with delight. I didn't specify any desired designs beyond checking out what had been posted online. Was fine with the designs and colors of the papers. It's the holidays after all, and multi colors ought to be present in presents. Left it to Lyn's artistic eye. Once wrapping and writing and all that were done, I had a problem. Whatever ordered weren't enough! Kinda miscalculated how many humans would appear and stuff like that. I usually stock extras, but this round, because I'm not home, I didn't cater for that. Aiyah. Seattle stores has gorgeous handmade items too, but I particularly want some gifts to be Made in Singapore.

I should have doubled the order, Lyn. Oof. Thank you so much for the personal touch this season!

Westward & Little Gull

Headed out to brunch to Wallingford at the uber chic Westward & Little Gull. Located along the north shore of Lake Union, the restaurant boasts of marina views and easy vibes. Love the wood, blue and white. We went for brunch once, liked it so much that we've gone back twice for lunch and dinner.

An apple-wood oven churns out fish, chicken and smoked clams. The kitchen could sure cook. Chef Zoi Antonitsas incorporates many Greek influences into Northwest flavors, giving rise to a menu that many of us love. The first visit was at brunch and we were blown away by the quality of its food. Loved the wood oven baked bagel with house-cured wild salmon gravlax and labneh. The man couldn't stop raving about his wood oven roasted chicken hash with root vegetables, ras el hanout and poached farm eggs. Decent offerings of beer on tap.

A grey morning (what's new, Seattle) in a warm and lovely restaurant made it perfect to kick back with coffee after to chill out with the friends, nattering about nothing in particular, googling bits and bobs, sharing laughs and everything under the sun drizzle. Seattle's rains don't disturb me. In fact, I quite welcome it. Didn't even flinch when it rained for four days straight. Makes me treasure that one day of bright sunshine and blue skies all the more.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

'All The Way' & 'The Great Society'

I knew it was going to be a heavy play. Suited me fine. Booked tickets to Seattle Repertory Theatre's 'All the Way' and 'The Great Society'. A two-part political and historical play split over two sets of dates, three hours each. In Seattle. I couldn't be happier. Both written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Bill Rauch(Reviews here, here, here and here.)

Jack Willis plays President Lyndon B. Johnson or LBJ, who completed John F. Kennedy's term in 1963 and became President in 1964. Half the cast has been with this play for years, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where the second play 'The Great Society' earlier debuted. The first play 'All the Way' was already shown at the festival in 2012 and in March 2014 on Broadway where Bryan Cranston took the lead role as JBJ. Yes, that Bryan Cranston. The Walter White of you-know-what drama. His win actually stirred my interest in catching the play, not necessarily with him in it.

'All the Way' explores LBJ taking the presidency in a painful period in American history. 'The Great Society' takes a hard look at the effectiveness of LBJ's presidency. I.e his Great Programs of major spending to address urban poverty, racial rights, education, medical care and transport. Of which all came to betterment decades later under Nixon and Ford. The two-part play is a continuation of gargantuan effort by Seattle Repertory Theatre. Civil rights and liberties, Rev Martin Luther King Jr. (played by Kenajuan Bentley), the establishment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Vietnam War, etc. I can understand the finesse required to negotiate with Congress, dealing with both Republicans and Democrats, factions pro and anti-War.

Not like I know so much about American history. In fact, I don't know offhand which President is notable for what achievements. Had to do a quick revision of history and LBJ before watching the plays. At least that's a period in history I'm already familiar with. Sharp dialogue, the actors' voices, cadences and dramatic flair, dry humor and excellent balanced acting. Absolutely enjoyable.