Saving Seattle One Game at a Time: An Open Letter to Pete Carroll & The Seahawks.

Dear Mr. Carroll,

According to my parents, I have always been a sports fan. Their first clue came when they figured out that the best way to quell my infant fussing was to put me in front of a basketball, football, or baseball game (see: perfection in parenting 101!).  As a toddler I would wave my hands wildly about, my feet scrambling underneath me in various directions, attempting to resemble something they call “dancing” while Hank Williams wailed “Are you ready for some footbaallll?!?!” over the TV set speakers.  If I wasn’t doing that, I would cheer for the “He-Hawks”, as I called them, clad in my gray Seahawks dress, toting plastic-stringed pom-poms that were half the size of my body, and professing proudly that I was a “He-Hawk Girl”.

A large portion of my childhood nostalgia also centers around watching the Mariners from behind home plate in the Kingdome; looking behind and above me to see Dave Niehaus perched in the press box announcing the game, catching whizzing bags of peanuts from “Rick the Peanut Guy”, and watching Griffey slide into home to help us clench the title of A.L. Divisional Champs.

Sadly, in my 2.5 decades of living, Seattle sport fans and I have had little to celebrate. A declining MLB franchise, our historically bad NFL team, and the loss of our NBA team has done nothing but deflate our optimism.  Sure, we made it to the Superbowl for the first time ever in 2006 and it was a huge deal, but did anyone expect us to get there? No. Did anyone want us there? Definitely not.  Was our whole city behind us?  Not like it is now.

Four years ago, it was announced that you would be the new head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. I remember feeling a rush of optimism, knowing all you had done not only for the team at USC, but for the community surrounding USC.  You had a history of winning and a decidedly strong character.

My dad, not so convinced, rambled on about how NFL players were much different than college players.  More weathered. Less easy to energize.  Harder to discipline. Not only have you proved him wrong, but you’ve surpassed my most optimistic expectations.

Over the course of four years, we have watched you rollover practically the entire team and rebuild.  Each year we have watched you create a more powerful team.  We’ve seen you adding more and more essential characters to assemble the young, energized, and disciplined group known as the Seattle Seahawks.  Us 12’s have been proud and loud for years, you’ve just given us something to back up that pride and enthusiasm.

Your success has created something hardly ever seen in Seattle: Community. Brotherhood & Sisterhood. Faith.  People who have never watched football are now tuning in to see what the Seahawks are going to do next.  Together these things are joining this little-big city of ours together and melting the face off our so-called “Seattle Freeze”.   High-fives, hugs, laughter, and even photos are being shared together among friends and strangers alike, all in celebration of this team that you’ve created. That you’ve put every fiber of your being into.

You, sir, are saving Seattle.  And I think in some ways you already have.  You are putting us on the map.  You are making the non-believers, believers.  You are turning strangers into friends.  You are finally pulling the heads of football fans, commentators, analysts and general nay-sayers out of the sand and forcing them to pay attention to us.  To see what we have and to fear it. To reckon with it.

In just hours, this sport fan along with thousands of others in Seattle will be halting everything else to watch the biggest and most important game of this season yet. To support you and these dreammakers and wishgranters lovingly called the ‘Hawks and hopefully watch you all carry us into that really big game a few weeks away.

No matter what happens now and what happens in the future – this group will always be remembered, celebrated, and loved for what they’ve done for this city.  You will always be regarded as our hero.  Seattle’s sports hero.

Good luck, and GO HAWKS!

xoxo,

One Proud 12th Woman.

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Learning to cope before the loss

The moment the fresh meat hits the cast-iron skillet, a loud sizzle erupts in the kitchen.  The aroma of grass-fed beef, salt & pepper, and hints of parsley permeate the air above the stove moments later as the steak gets flipped to the other side.

Next to the stove sits Keiki, who will get to eat this steak after it’s finished.  Her brown eyes grow wide and her snout climbs as high as it can, her nostrils inhaling in short and quick bursts. She licks her lips in anticipation without moving her body from its seated position.

Once the steak is done, it is placed on a wooden cutting board and quickly sliced into strips.  The strips are then transferred to an aluminum dish resting on the counter that bears her name on the outside rim.

The drippings of the steak creep through the bed of kibble that already covers the bottom of the bowl.  “We have to let it cool, first,”  I say to Keiki, who is looking up at me expectantly.

keikiKeiki is familiar with human food.  My niece and nephews are known to smuggle her bite-sized pieces of chicken, bread, and vegetables under the table;  she gets a whole bar of stringed cheese when she visits Grandma’s;  She gets the fatty pieces of my steak because she enjoys them much more than I ever could; and In the middle of the day when no one is looking, she sometimes heaves her front paws to the counter top and pirates a bag of bread and a stick of butter for an afternoon snack.  Despite all this, Keiki has never been able to procure an entire steak to herself.  Until now.

A few days ago, Keiki was diagnosed with Lung cancer.  In her boxer-framed chest is a tumor the size of a baseball.  According to the veterinarian, it has already spread in other places including her heart.  To add insult to injury, it is untreatable and fast-moving.  Keiki’s days of watching over me, letting kids climb all over without a sneer, and collecting as many crumbs off faces and the ground, are numbered.

Keiki rushes over to me as I attempt to put the bowl down and dives her snout in before it even touches the floor.  She manages to devour the entire steak and drippings in seconds, completely ignoring any bit of kibble that isn’t coated.  Her tail is wagging wildly about.  Right now, she looks happy and healthy.

In a total of three minutes, she has licked her bowl completely clean and is moseying over to attempt to do the same to my face.  She instead stops to cough for a few seconds before ultimately resting her head on my lap. Her tail still sways from left to right, even slowly.

Keiki will spend her last days finally getting to sleep under the covers.  She will get to spend her afternoons at her favorite dog park.  She will eat things she’s only salivated about until now.

Her gaze fixes on me as I scratch behind her ears (her favorite spot) and I realize:  no matter how much I attempt to spoil her in her last days, it will never amount to how much she has spoiled me.

Chef Reis Llaneza finds his inner-“Mr. Aloha” with The Box.

A crowd gathers outside a large food truck amidst a jungle of office buildings in Kirkland’s Totem Lake neighborhood.  The truck remains almost entirely white excepting a large black and orange sign on the back labeling it “The Box”.  Owner and executive chef Reis Llaneza sits in the passenger seat of the truck.  “How is your husband doing?  Is he working today?” Llaneza asks the woman placing her order.  The two continue the conversation as if they are two friends rather than business owner and customer.  By the time Llaneza’s staff of two, Tolan Furusho and Oscar “Knucklehead” Martinez, produces her food, a new customer has arrived.  Llaneza welcomes the new customer with a smile spanning the width of his tan face, and immediately begins to chat with the man.  Llaneza’s true talent lies in cuisine, but he is clearly the heart of this operation.  His constant grin and bright demeanor appears to come easily to him.  It seems as though his warmth and friendliness is simply a byproduct of calling the Aloha State his home.  In a conversation with the chef a few days later, he makes it clear he was not always this way.

Llaneza had worked behind the scenes in the restaurant industry for 12 years before The Box materialized and admits he was reluctant to interact with patrons during that time.   “Customers would ask to talk to the chef and I would say, ‘please don’t make me go out there!’” Llaneza, waving his hands in front of him, exclaims. “I would freak out, because I just wasn’t used to it,” he adds, laughing.

Five years after settling in Seattle, Llaneza thought of opening his own restaurant.  “I wanted to do a restaurant, but financially couldn’t,” he explains. “It was just too expensive and the risk was higher.” Faced with limited options, it was Llaneza’s wife, Joanna, who suggested he open a lunch truck with influences from home. “[In Hawaii] there are so many different cultures that you grow up eating…there’s Korean, Chinese, Japanese…All the influences are there,” pointing to the Asian-Fusion menu written on a white board and propped behind the driver seat of the truck.  Dishes include chicken karaage, kalua pork hum baos, and kalbi yakiniku — all of which offer a personalized spin from Llaneza.

The difference in having a restaurant versus a truck is the inability to shy away from customers.  For the first few months after it’s opening, it was Llaneza’s mother, Jo-Lynn Nakamura, who pitched in and saved him from the role he dreaded most.  “She was a school teacher, so she had an easier time talking to people,” Llaneza says.

That of course changed when his mother went back home to the Big Island and left him in charge. Knowing the important role that customer service plays in the industry, Llaneza made a conscious effort to get to know visitors. With the help of Martinez, Llaneza was able to recall names of people that would return to The Box. The chef says that he eventually found reward in getting to know them. “I like learning about what’s going on [with customers] outside the truck,” he remarks enthusiastically.  He also appreciates that customers took an interest in his life as well.  Specifically when his first daughter, Khloe, was born last year.

As one of the pioneers in mobile food on the Eastside, The Box finds it’s schedule expanding from weekday lunch to occasional Friday dinner.  And in the summer, they are operating seven days a week.  In just their first year, The Box was listed under the Top 10 food trucks in King 5’s Best of Western Washington poll.  Their success is no doubt, in part, due to the welcoming nature of Llaneza and his crew. Since The Box began its journey, Llaneza now claims that interacting with the public is one of his favorite parts of the job. “Sometimes I don’t want to be back [in the kitchen], I like to sit up here and take orders,” he says with a wide grin. Like a natural, Llaneza can finally represent the warmth of his home with Western Washington residents.

The Business of Promoting the Modern Day Musician

In my last post, I outlined the downfalls of technology in a live music setting.  The abundance of cameras and smart phones take away from the experience, putting another layer between us and the performer, just so that we can share this so-called experience with another.  For all the negativity technology brings the music world, there are definitely times when it doesn’t deserve the rap it gets.

Does anyone remember the agony of trying to figure out a song before the internet and our smart phones existed?  If you heard it on the radio, you’d have to try to call the radio station to figure it out if they hadn’t announced it.  Most of the time, however, we would just wait until it came on again to try to catch the name and artist.  Until that happened we’d just awkwardly try to sing it to our friends to see if they could identify it.

Now it’s easy to recall a single lyric to quickly enter into Google, or use the music app Shazam to have it identify the song for us.  From there, we can instantly download the song and play it out before the day even ends!  The amount of music we can discover and download (or play on YouTube over and over) in one sitting is astounding.  After we’re sick of a song (which with our shorter attention spans, is quickly), we’ll move on to the next.  We must be ingesting twice as much music as we used to before smart phones, or even the internet.

YouTube has made it possible for millions of people to showcase talent that may not have been able to otherwise.  From their living rooms or garages, they are able to create their own style and image.  One share of a video can lead to thousands.  Thousands of shares can lead to a download, which can lead to a crowd of people waiting outside a venue to see the artist.  All with just a few clicks of a mouse button.

Some artists may love having their shows being recorded by iPhones, but I’m sure many don’t.  IIt does beg the question: would artists have as many fans supporting them without the technology they used to bring them there?

Obsession with Technology Rips Away the Experience

We text message, instant message, snap photos, “face chat”, browse the web, update our Facebook statuses and even blog from pocket-sized devices we call Smart Phones.   Yes, they have the title “phone” attached to them, but does anyone even use them to actually make a call anymore? Our smart phones provide us with directions, the best happy hour within 2 miles, and entertainment in the form of games or YouTube.  So it’s no surprise that when you’re sitting at a restaurant full of relatively young people, you will see at least half scanning their phone even with a human counterpart (or group!) sitting with them.  Of all the inappropriate times to have your phone out, music shows and concerts are the worst.

There was a time when a band would emerge on stage and everyone’s attention would be solely on them.  Show-goers were able to experience music without a barrier of technology between them and the performer.  When it was time for an encore, people would flick open their lighters instead of their flashlight app.  Now instead of telling stories of shows like fisherman speak of fish, one can whip out their phone or camera and show you exactly what their experience was.  Or at least they think.  The problem is you really can’t replicate the exact experience of a show with your stupid iPhone.

This stock footage must be super old. Who has a flip phone anymore?

You can take as many photos on your fancy camera and take as many videos on your newfangled smart phone, but even then — you cannot give anyone the full experience without them being there.  And by worrying about recording every moment of something — you’re losing the experience yourself.

Andy Greene, Associate Editor with Rolling Stone Magazine recently made a list of the 10 Most Annoying Concert Behaviors, and the #1 annoying behavior happened to be taking photos the entire show.  This is what he had to say about it:

I get it. You want to show all your friends on Facebook and Twitter that you saw a cool concert. Fine. Take a photo. Take five if you want! But please, don’t take 77. You always manage to hold your camera right in my line of sight. You don’t even look like you’re enjoying the show while you’re doing this. All your attention is on the photos. And you know what? Those photos are all going to look like shit. Every single one of them. You’re too far away. You’ll probably never even look at them. Also, you see those guys right in front of the stage with the giant cameras? They’re taking great professional pictures. There’s really no need for yours.

I know most of us (including me) are guilty of snapping a few photos or shooting a video (pics or it didn’t happen, right?), but when you spend the entire show doing that — you might as well go home and watch it all on YouTube. You’re already reducing your ticket cost to watching through a tiny screen, anyway.

Muse “Electrifies” Seattle’s Life for a Night

Sometime after the new year rang in, I was hunting the internet for a birthday gift ideas for a friend when I came across an advertisement that Muse was coming on the first of February.  I have been a long-time fan of Muse and I knew she was a fan, too; I snatched up tickets to the best seats we could get (all floor tix were taken already — boo!).

I have always heard that Muse shows are typically spectacular though I’ve never seen any myself.  Despite hearing that they put on great shows, I was still a little curious about how it would go.  If you’ve been following Muse for a while you’ll know that their music has changed drastically in the last 13 years; Hell, it even changes drastically within a single album!  I’m all for mixing up your musical style if it’s working for you but it starts to get tricky when you’re putting on a show.

The 2nd Law, Muse’s newest album, has stronger influences of electronica than normal and they’ve even incorporated the oh-so-popular dubstep.  There are some great tunes on this album but most of it is very different then say, my personal favorites,  “Hysteria” and “Unintended“.  “Unintended” is an acoustic number with soft but haunting vocals while “Hysteria” contains the sexiest driving bass line my ears have ever known paired with more aggressive and intimidating vocals.  “Panic Station“, the second single from The 2nd Law, is much more light with a sprinkling of funky, disco-esque horns and beat.  I dance to “Panic Station”, I go to sleep listening to “Unintended” and drive fast and angry to “Hysteria”. Knowing this, I was expecting very bi-polar and confusing concert at the Key Arena in Seattle last Friday night.

I was proven wrong — at least for the most part.  Muse stuck to their faster-paced songs but there were some changes in style that may have thrown off the newer or single-following fans.  Luckily during the songs that weren’t all dance, there were some spectacular lights, screens and lasers (both trippy and thought-provoking) to keep the crowd entertained.

Despite the dizzying array of genres that Muse represents and presents, the most important thing to remember is that they can.  Why can they?  Because with everything they try, they do it amazingly well.  Possessing a Grammy along with many other awards and accolades, it is no doubt that Muse is talented .  Matthew Bellamy holds the very essence of what an artist should be with his guitar.  The most difficult sounding riffs slide seamlessly from his fingers to deliver that electrifying, pit-of-your-stomach fulfillment.  Witnessing this first-hand reminded me of why I needed to see this show.  Illuminated stage, glowing instruments, and video sunglasses aside, Muse needs to be celebrated and recognized for their work.  In return for that recognition, Muse will hand you an incredible concert.

From Jarring to Jammin’: What a Few Drinks Can Do!

My friend and I greet the man at the front door of the bar after a bitter cold walk through her Greenwood neighborhood after a long Friday.  I admire his ability to stand out in this temperature and ask for identification upon entering, but I’m sure he can inquire from inside.  We shuffle into the bar and quickly become confused by what is happening; Jamaican flags and reggae posters adorn the walls of the normally rustic and bare-looking dive bar.  A DJ perched on the small stage sporting a rastacap fumbles around with his equipment while patrons wince at the changes in pitch and volume.  “One drink, and we’ll leave,” I proclaim to my friend as she rubs her ears and glares at the list of what’s on tap. I’m wondering reluctantly are we too old, because the music is too loud? One drink manifests into another before we’ve suddenly sipped 8 doubles between us.  We’ve traded our earlier hesitance of the DJ’s art for absolute enjoyment. The bartenders spot us swaying and squirming in our seats to the music and chuckle. “Let’s dance!” my friend squeals across the table to me as I nod excitedly back.

Fading Fast: The Demise of Print as We Know It

I love the newspaper.  Soft and smooth to the touch yet sturdy in fold, off-white and smelling of oily ink, with beckoning headlines and photos flooding each section.  Best paired with a fresh cup of coffee.  A quiet and relaxing way to take in the news.  Did I mention I love the newspaper?

Courtesy of TechnoBuffalo.comThe thought of the newspaper evokes a lot of nostalgia for me.  Years of growing up and coming home every single day from school to my father at the dining room table reading it. Always.  After Dad was done reading the paper, my sister, mom and I would race to pick out our favorite section before someone else got their hands on it — eventually rotating each section among us.  Sundays were, and still are, my favorite newspaper days.  Full of so much more than the daily newspaper, more to discover and read.  Over the years, my favorite sections of The Seattle Times grew from the Comics and Games to the only slightly more refined Arts & Entertainment and Sports sections.

According to writer Glen Martin, the newspaper I’ve known and loved all my life will most likely fade and disintegrate into nothing but a memory.

In our Writing for Mass Media class on Wednesday night, Martin was asked to speak and graciously obliged.  Martin, who is a relatively established freelancer, made no attempt to sugarcoat what is happening (and has been happening) to the business of newspaper and print media.  And if you were thinking of making a living writing for those papers, you can just forget about it.  Martin painted a gloomy picture of newsrooms being drastically reduced from 300 writers to 40 shortly after the arrival of Craigslist.  With its arrival, internet classifieds skyrocketed and “Two-thirds of newspaper classifieds were gone,” explained Martin. According to him, this is when the newspaper as we know it began to fail.

In all honesty, what he had to say was no real surprise, just a snap back to reality.

The digital world is dominating.  After the initial blow of downsizing and removal of print editions of newspapers (including Seattle’s own Post-Intelligencer), bookstores have begun to close left and right; no doubt from the arrival of E-readers.  I admit, I am one of the thousands (maybe millions?) who love the convenience of my Kindle, but nothing compares to the feel of cradling a book in my hands, the scent of the pages that waft with every turn, folding the corners down, and having the ability to identify a favorite book by its slow weathering over periods of continuous reading.  The music industry is also seeing a drop in the success of hard-copy stores.  On Friday one of my favorite record stores in Seattle, Easy Street Records in Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, will be closing its doors – yet another piece of nostalgia being reduced to a bittersweet memory.

The presence of newspapers, Records and CDs, hard-copy books and physical copies of movies are slowly fading and will eventually be a part of our distant past.  These artifacts will be looked upon (if they aren’t already) as outdated, unsustainable, and inefficient wastes of space and money – collecting dust in museums and old people’s homes along with phonographs and TV antennas.  And that’s sad.  Martin wasn’t being bitter, he was just being real.  Our world is changing and eventually we’ll all have to change with it, too.  This includes the paper-worshiping like me.

Print media, and the newspaper specifically, will always hold a special place in my heart; Next to Mariners games in the Kingdome, The Bon Marche, and the Ballard Firehouse as music venue.  So nothing to see here folks, just the beginning of the end in the print media era.