steak, art, and tech failure in seattle (day 12)

On our last full day in Seattle, we set out in the morning with a plan for spending the day apart, then meeting up for dinner at the second place our friends (nephew and niece-in-law) recommended. A big part of the plan was arranging things so Allan could navigate to several different used bookstores in various Seattle neighbourhoods, while I was at the Seattle Art Museum. This isn't something he usually needs, so we wanted to check his phone data, use of maps app with the sound on, and so on.

Before any of that, we went to Seattle Public Library's central branch, which I saw to wild acclaim last year, and I wanted Allan to see. I knew he'd be impressed with the research resources. I think it made him a little sad that he doesn't have anything like that anymore.

In the downtown area near the library and museum, there were huge groups of Blue Jays' fan, in town to see the Mariners play the Jays. 

Art is for rich people should be for everyone

I wanted to visit Olympic Sculpture Park, a nine-acre site on the waterfront, and part of the Seattle Art Museum. I love sculpture parks, and always try to spend time in them when my path crosses one. But a bright, sunny, July day is not the time. There would be no shade, and hiking around in the baking sun is very unappealing to me, so I went to the Seattle Art Museum itself. 

Repeating myself here, I want to note how terrible it is that museums have become so expensive. I can spend the money, and I did -- but it's a Big Thing to drop $30 for the morning. It's a commitment. Forget about bringing a friend who is curious but could take it or leave it, as Allan might be. More importantly, forget about an average family just looking for something to do.

I grew up visiting museums. I was exposed to art: the idea of looking at visual art was normalized for me. When this is your experience, you develop interests, tastes, ideas. Whether or not this stays with you as you become an adult, the experience is enriching. Now this is the exclusive domain of the well-off. When you consider that art and music have been largely eliminated from public education, the picture is even more dismal.

This is particularly discouraging at a time when museums everywhere are diversifying their collections, showcasing work more reflective of a wider cultural lens. In other words, it's no longer all dead, white, European men. Wouldn't it make sense to appeal to diverse communities? 

At dinner, Allan and I talked about how a museum could buck this trend, fundraising specifically for "Art Is For Everyone". Wouldn't they make up in volume what they "lost" in admission fees? 

He also noted that Major League Baseball has the same problem: an exclusive domain for people with money -- whether watching at home or in person. We thought about seeing the Mariners while we were in town, but good seats are prohibitively expensive, considering our team wouldn't be playing, and we've already been to this park.

Calder, Jacob Lawrence, Masks, "Poke in the Eye"

The Seattle Art Museum currently has an exhibit of work by Alexander Calder. Sculpture is always my favourite visual art, and I love Calder, so I was very interested. This introduced me to a wider range of his work than I had seen before. 

Mobiles were displayed so that the piece's shadow could be seen on the wall behind it. There were also photographs of Calder working -- many made by the photographer Gordon Parks -- that I had never seen before. A fantastic exhibit, I really enjoyed it.

After this, I was surprised to see several messages from Allan on my phone: he experienced a complete tech failure -- not his fault at all, just very frustrating and annoying. Somehow he managed to find his way to this first stop, but now he was stranded there. This would have been a great time to have an old-fashioned paper map. 

We spoke a few times, and I tried everything I could, then I came up with a plan. First I had lunch in the museum's cafe, a Thing I Enjoy. For some reason, I am very partial to having lunch in museums and department stores. As a child and teenager, I used to do this with my mother, and it's something I always enjoyed. 

"The Library," Jacob Lawrence, 1960
from The Smithsonian American Art Museum
After lunch, I saw a small exhibit of Jacob Lawrence, the great Harlem Renaissance painter, who I really like. I had no idea he lived much of his life in Washington State, and that his work is represented throughout the state, including in several public schools and libraries. Wouldn't that make an amazing road trip -- driving around the Pacific Northwest looking for Jacob Lawrence paintings? 

There was a big exhibit called "A Poke in the Eye", about counterculture visual art from the western US states. I tried it a bit, but it wasn't for me. 

I also stumbled on a collection of masks that is part of the museum's permanent collection. The masks were from West Africa, and it was interesting to compare (in my mind, anyway) these masks with the regalia used by the Indigenous peoples where we live. Some of the accompanying info mentioned that Belgium prohibited the people of Congo to use certain masks. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?

A rescue, a drive, more bookstores, more tech issues

When I was done, I rescued Allan: I ordered an Uber, met him at his first bookstore stop, and we used my phone to navigate. 

He had six bookstores picked out in the Seattle area. Two were in Pike Place Market, so he eliminated those -- crowds, parking, etc. The other four were scattered through various Seattle neighbourhoods. I navigated to each, and waited in the car, quite content to play word games and read while Allan hunted.  It was fun to see different neighbourhoods outside of the downtown. 

Then we ran into our second tech problem of the day. Using the maps app all day, my phone battery was rapidly running down, and the USB cable (to connect to the car charger) was back in our Airbnb. At a gas station, I bought a cable... then got the annoying Samsung "your charging port has moisture" message. This is a crazy Android/Samsung problem-that-is-not-a-problem. The message is meaningless, but while it's on, you cannot charge your phone.

Allan's phone was out of data (even though it shouldn't have been), and now my phone wouldn't make it to the restaurant and then home. And we were deep in some Seattle hinterland, without a map of any kind. 

I plugged in our last few trips, and we were going to write down all the directions -- until Allan had the brilliant idea of my reading the instructions from my phone, using his phone to record them. I did that, and it turned out to literally save the day.

Another amazing dinner

We had dinner at Asadero, a Mexican steakhouse in the Ballard neighbourhood. The menu was really interesting, the service was fantastic, and the food was incredible. We ordered several dishes to share, and way over-ordered. We are looking forward to eating all the leftovers for our next dinner.

By the time we reached the restaurant, my phone was completely dead. We navigated back to Bellevue using the directions we read and recorded earlier! Once back, we sat on the patio with a glass of wine. It was a crazy day, but a really fun one. Tomorrow we take the ferry to Victoria.

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