Friday, May 26, 2006

Only in Seattle

I have had a few things on my list in recent days that must be described as "Only in Seattle" and I will start with last night:

1. Only in Seattle is the salmon ultra delicious at Ivar's Salmon House. This particular restaurant is original Seattle and we still love it for the good food and nostalgia. My husband was honored yesterday with a distinguished professor award and after his presentation, the two of us decided to go to Ivar's which is near the UW--a place we have gone numerous times over 27 years. It was bittersweet because my friend Patti's husband had received this honor shortly before they moved away. Oddly, Patti's memorial service in Pennsylvania was taking place at the exact same time as Dave's turn to be recognized.

Over some lovely salmon we toasted Patti....and Dave. But we were not finished because yesterday my mother turned 78 so we toasted her. And finally, Kaley called me yesterday from school before she boarded the bus for a choir trip and told me she was one of her class Salutatorians. In her class of 500, they have 2 Valedictorians and 4 Salutatorians. She had no idea about the significance of being Salutatorian and only looked into it after receiving a congratulatory note from a friend online. So we toasted Kaley. She might have been Valedictorian had it not been for that A minus in an online correspondence P.E. class. Oh well, something had to go so she could jam in Jazz Choir, Performance class, and AP French 5.

The window at Ivar's looks out on Lake Union with downtown and the Space Needle visible on the other side. Rain drops streaked the glass as we sat silently and thoughtfully enjoying the view. Ducks paired up and fluffed their feathers while some middle-aged guys enjoying themselves with a beer or two pulled their boat up to the Ivar's dock. And streaking across the gray water were the flashing blue lights of two Seattle Police skiffs heading off to solve some problem in this city of ours built in and around water.

2. Only in Seattle, not far from Ivar's was a black bear killed a few days before. Our city is bordered by wilderness and every now and again wildlife wanders in--whether it be cougars, coyotes, or bears. I remember a few years ago a coyote was wandering the streets of downtown Seattle and he decided for whatever reason to take the elevator in the Federal Building. http://www.hcn.org/servlets/hcn.Article?article_id=13461 His story had a happy ending. Who knows which gulch the bear followed in from the mountains but he managed to get himself lost in the University District. Unfortunately, his clash with humans ended badly for him. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003010594_bear22m.html

3. Only in Seattle is a UW scientist trying to teach a dog to track orcas by smelling orca poop. I am not kidding.

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Gator, wildlife scat detector extraordinaire! (Paul Joseph Brown / P-I)

Evidently, scientists have used dogs to sniff whale poop in other parts of the world where the poop floats. Gator, pictured above, is a drug sniffer school drop out but he is really really good at finding things like wolverines by sniffing out droppings in the wilderness. So a scientist at UW is trying to train Gator to pick up the scent of our Puget Sound orcas. Being able to gather and study feces tells us an incredible amount of information about diet, health, and pollutants. Two problems have arisen. First of all, Gator didn't like being in a boat so much his first time out. Secondly, orca poop doesn't float very well and may be dispersed deep down. Frankly, I think the bigger problem may be Gator's bad boat experience. He got scared out on Lake Washington and they are expecting to take him on the wild waters of Puget Sound??

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Orcas, however, dive a lot and, he said, "here it'll be more of a brownish cloud ...

"A (killer) whale may swim under you, roll and give you a Bronx cheer, and you'll see it, but it'll be 20 feet down," he said.

Wasser, though, says a certain percentage floats and that should be enough. The big challenge, Balcomb predicts, will be figuring out which whale produced which poop, because they congregate so closely. And the water here, unlike in the Bahamas, is often cloudy.

"Figuring out who did a Freddy is going to be hard," Balcomb said.

I really do hope that Gator, a 45 pound, 8 year old blue healer has success and becomes famous as the first orca scat sniffing dog. That'll show those mean people who flunked him out of drug sniffing school.

4. Speaking of dogs, only in Seattle are there more dogs than children. And believe me, even those of us who have human children treat our furry charges often better than we treat our children.

CONSIDER FOR the next few thousand words that this is a city near the apex of civilization....

...Name your technological age— jet, space, digital — and we [Seattle] are major players, building planes, plucking comet dust from space, corralling bits and bytes and knowledge itself....

Seattle residents' growing dependence on dogs implies they might not be getting enough emotional support from their fellow humans. Maybe they aren't rising to the challenges of compromise, frustration and general woes of dealing with other people, whom Sartre did, after all, call hell...

And maybe this is a variation on the bromide about Seattle's social life: polite, but not friendly.

It's lonely at the top, so we bring the dog.


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Now, if we could just get everyone to clean up after their dogs so that our orcas don't have to be swimming through canine fecal coliform!

5. Only in Seattle when you hear barking, though our dog population far exceeds the number of children we have, it may not be a dog. Apolo and I were out in the back yard the other day while I was cleaning up his poop and very loudly...."Arf! Arf! Arf!"

Apolo perked up his ears and looked at me with a confused look, "That ain't no dog!"

And again, "Arf! Arf! Arf!". We are about 100 feet straight up from the beach but because of all of the water on still days the sound carries. Somewhere down there was a sea lion--happy or unhappy--I can't read sea lion barks like I can dog barks. We couldn't see him but it sure sounded like he was in the neighbor's yard.