Monday, April 25, 2016


I always suspected that the fact that we all ended up in Seattle was a plan hatched by Dad in the early 1950s. Dad was introduced to Seattle in 1934, during a brief visit when his father was looking for work. He returned in 1943 to rivet B-17s, until he was old enough to enlist. He enrolled at Michigan State under the GI Bill, but transferred to UW, where he graduated in 1949. He went to Berkeley for his Masters, then came back to work in Seattle for a couple of years. He hiked in the Cascades and played golf at the UW course along the Montlake Cut (now Health Sciences, I think). But then he headed east to work in NY, where he met Mom and got his PhD.

He and Mom got married in New York City while Dad was at Columbia. They honeymooned in Europe and brought back a VW bug. And then Dad got a job at Bowdoin in 1957 and they spent the next 35 years in Brunswick.  I arrived in 1958 and Jane showed up a couple of years later. Somewhere in between Jane and me, they moved into 75 Federal, where they lived until 1992, when they moved back to Seattle.

Dad's time at Bowdoin is nicely summarized in the Bowdoin Daily Sun.

Every couple of summers in the 1960s and 1970s, Dad led us on long car-camping trips to the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. We visited Seattle. We took the ferries, we camped at Sunrise, we visited Lake Quinault. We couldn't help but notice the attraction this place had for him, but I'm not sure we realized that he was busy planting seeds.

I'm sure the early exposure to Seattle contributed to me ending up here for grad school in 1983, where I immediately met Michele. Jane dabbled with Seattle about that same time before seeking adventures in NYC and San Francisco. But in 1991, she and Rob also moved back to Seattle.

We knew Mom and Dad were contemplating retiring to Seattle. They checked out real estate on their visits and we knew they had their eyes set on something that might offer a glimpse of Mount Rainier. In 1992, both fully retired, they sold the house in Brunswick and headed to Seattle for good.

They found a house that took care of itself, unlike the wonderful, but high maintenance, place back in Maine. It had enough room to accommodate Dad's post-retirement hobbies - his 1934 Buick and his 1940 Chevy. And his other hobby, too. He re-created the western railroad landscape in HO in the basement - laying track around two large rooms and building an impressive inventory of the Milwaukee Road, Union Pacific, Santa Fe, Great Northern, Burlington, and more. He and mom went to train meets and to old car shows. He won ribbons. They drove the old Chevy down to Burgermaster for lunch. They drove down to Edmonds to watch the trains along Puget Sound.

They were in Seattle when Devon and Leigh and Will were born and they watched them grow up. They served pancakes on Sunday mornings and hosted our family birthdays. We did family trips to Mount Rainier, to Puget Sound, and we all celebrated their 50th Anniversary in Jasper (not Seattle, but another place that Dad introduced us to early on).

In the last few years, Dad began to slow down. Eventually Mom had to take the keys away from him and take over the taxes. But it seems like every day they could, they drove down to McDonalds and picked up their chicken sandwiches and their coffee, then parked at the lake and watched the mountain, and the kite surfers, and the ducks. The routine only faltered in the last few weeks, when Dad's mobility ratcheted down another notch.

This past fall, Jane and I took Mom and Dad downtown and up to the roof deck of the Russell Investments Building, so he could look out over Puget Sound and a Seattle that had changed immensely from when he first visited with his family during the depression. I think he appreciated it - at least in the moment.

Dad first visited Seattle in the midst of the depression, when he was nine. He kept coming back, for work, for college, on vacations with his young family, and later, to visit his grown children. But I think his plan all along was to come back for good, once he assured that the rest of us would already be here. Dad died on April 10th, but he left Jane and Mom and me in a pretty good place.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


The Salish Sea Conference alternates back and forth every two years between Vancouver and Seattle. This year we were back in Vancouver, for three days of ecology, restoration, and even a little bit of geology (but not much). As an interdisciplinary regional conference, it's a great chance to talk with folks that I don't get to see as often as I probably should. Of course, one result is to come away with an impossibly long list of good ideas and things to check into -- impossibly long.

These meetings are always pretty hectic, but a few of us got away late one day for an evening in West Vancouver, where we checked out a beach project and had a great dinner. The meeting didn't wind up, for me, at least, until almost 4 on Friday, but that still left me time to explore the beaches in Kitsilano and to shop at MEC on the way out of the city.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Art Institute

Our first day in Chicago was crystal clear and was mainly spent outdoors, looking up at the buildings. But our second was gray and we spent the middle of the day at the Art Institute of Chicago, catching up on our art and winding up with sore ankles. It's amazing how much more tiring it can be to wander museums than to walk all day outside. We need to figure out how to do this in smaller doses.

The big exhibit was built around Van Gogh's bedroom - three versions of which were on display, including the one that actually lives in Chicago. But there was also other stuff by Van Gogh and a lot of material to provide context.

Of course, there was plenty of other material to look at, from Seurat to O'Keefe.


Willis (Sears) Tower  1970

More buildings, ranging from less than 20 floors to more than 100.  And from the 19th century to the 21st.

The Rookery 1888

Aon Center 1973
Aqua  2009

Merchandise Mart 1933

333 Wacker  1983
Marina City  1964

Lake Point Tower 1968
300 North LaSalle  20

Trump Tower

The Trump Tower would be hard to miss, but given this year's attention on its namesake, it was particularly difficult to ignore. I sort of like the building, but it was hard for me to separate its personality from that of the Donald's. For example, I don't think any other building we saw in Chicago had its name in a bigger font.

The 98-story building includes both hotel and condos. It was completed in 2009. It stands out in part because it rises so high above the Michigan Avenue Bridge and because it's lined up with the entrance to the Chicago River.

Wrigley Building

Every big city has skyscrapers, but somehow Chicago shows them off better than most. I have no idea whether it's their density, their average height, their architectural diversity, or that they rise from an utterly flat landscape. Whatever the reason, the next few posts will be focused on buildings. Mainly pictures, since it takes more time and energy to actually write about them, let alone to do the appropriate homework.

The Wrigley Building was built in the early 1920s. It, along with the Tribune Building, mark Michigan Avenue, just north of the bridge over the Chicago River. The looming Trump Tower (next post) is a bit of a distraction, but it also provides a nice counterpoint to the older, more ornate buildings.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Chicago River

The Chicago River winds through the canyons of downtown Chicago, with the city's spectacular skyscrapers rising practically from the water's edge. We took advantage of the wonderful day to take one of the architecture-inspired boat tours. The most highly acclaimed one - run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation - wasn't quite open for the season, but a similar offering by Shoreline Sightseeing was still a lot of fun.

I took an awful lot of photos of skyscrapers of different vintages, all rising into a bright blue sky. But I think I'll save some of those for a different post.

As interesting and appropriate as the architecture tour was, I would have enjoyed a river tour built more around the early history of the city. Before there was a city, there were spits and marshes at the mouth of the Chicago River. Before it was replumbed, the Chicago River flowed into Lake Michigan, as opposed to flowing west towards the Mississippi. Before there were skyscrapers, there were feedlots and slaughter houses. I read Cronon's history of Chicago a couple of years ago and would have loved to hear more about the city's origins, since I've already forgotten most of what I read.

Millennium Park

From the big silver coffee bean, we headed past the big lawn and pavilion and across Columbus Drive on the BP Bridge to Maggie Daley Park (not sure if it's technically part of Millennium Park or not).

A beautiful early spring day brought out the crowds - I guess it helped that it may have been spring break for the kids, too. The skating ribbon and ice rink were closed for the season, but the playground was in full tilt - absolutely packed.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Cloud Gate

I was captivated by "The Bean" when we visited Chicago in 2010 and I still love it. Something about its simplicity, its scale, and the way the curves juxtapose the straight lines of the buildings along Michigan Avenue. And of course, it's sort of like a giant selfie magnet, which we gave into along with everyone else. I actually visited twice, once early in the morning, and again, with Michele, after our breakfast at Wildberry Pancakes. What a perfect day for it.

Here's my post from five years ago:
Millennium Park: July 2010