PacNW Trip 3 of 3: Seattle


The trip from Vancouver BC to Seattle went by really quickly and we drove straight to the Seattle Art Museum because I wanted to see the mural by Chiho Aoshima. She was behind the gigantic piece at the rear of the Super Flat show at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center show, not to mention the cover of Giant Robot 22. Well, it turns out her installation is at the SAM’s sister gallery, the Asian Art Museum, which would be closed over the next two days. D’oh!


But the café was fancy, the bathrooms were spotless, and there was plenty of rad art: Cai Guo-Qiang’s exploding cars in the lobby and Elvis by Warhold, for starters. There was an African art rooted mask exhibit that was very cool, combining traditional work with an international group of young African artists giving their interpretations/mutations. There were so many awesome parts, but Saya Woolfalk’s installation was especially cool–like a mixture of Murakami, it’s a Small World, and Robocop!


After the museum closed, we walked to the Pike but never located the famous open market where the workers toss fish around. We did splurge on the Great Wheel, though, which afforded awesome views surrounded by touristy food. Is there ever such thing as bad ice cream cone?


We had enough of driving and the next day was spent entirely at or around Seattle Center. The food court at the Amory ain’t bad and that’s where we met a friend from high school, Theresa Nero. I love sightseeing and going on art, music, and cultural pilgrimages, but catching up with friends and seeing their families can be even better. (Sandra in Capital Hill, too.) Yes, Facebook can be a life-sucking devil but it sure helps us keep in touch and make meetings like this easy.

Yes, we went to the top of the Space Needle and the 360-degree view was complemented by a high-altitude mix of Jetsons-era futurism and dot-com gadgetry with all sorts of interactive displays and hashtag photography. It’s a little cheaper and less crowded earlier and later in the day. You also get better light.


I had always perceived the Experience Music Project as a rock ‘n’ roll museum but it turns out to be a pop culture collection that happens to be dressed in Frank Gehry. The Nirvana photos and memorabilia section was pretty good, although it was a little jarring to see friends who are still living plastered on walls like that. (Click on the picture above… We just had a BBQ with Lois in Olympia earlier in the trip!) But it was cool to see kids of all ages screwing around with musical instruments. Eloise learned some Kinks riffs. There were also indie video games, a Chuck Jones exhibit…


…and a traveling exhibit of costumes from Star Wars. I could easily share a dozen photos of that space alone but will refrain. There are also sections that you don’t have to pay extra for filled with props and artifacts from other sci-fi vehicles (Star Trek, Dr. Who, Aliens, Blade Runner, Ghost Busters) as well as horror flicks (Creature from The Black Lagoon, Shaun of the Dead) and fantasy movies (Lord of the Rings, Princess Bride, Labyrinth, Game of Thrones). It was like Comic-Con never ended…


We broke out of the Seattle Center compound to visit my friend Janice Headley at the KEXP radio/internet radio station responsible for such rad things as Mudhoney playing atop the Space Needle. We got a grand tour of the shockingly tiny studio while Giant Sand was turning up for a live performance. Thanks, Janet! Thanks, Susan! We can’t wait to visit the deluxe new location when it opens.


At first I couldn’t decide if Chihuly Glass and Garden was a monument to a hack or a genius, and I’ve decided that it’s both. The interior installations of out-of-control glasswork are totally Las Vegas. But when the epic constructions are combined with a garden setting I have to admit that it takes on an alien aesthetic that is rather arresting. Too bad they kicked us out at Magic Hour when the garden was at its prettiest.


We stayed near the airport and far from downtown, where there isn’t much stuff going on. But Pancake Chef made the drives back and forth worth it, and deserves a mention for its freshly baked fritters (I got apple) and full decanters of coffee for everyone that eats there (even if he or she is solo). That’s how we started our trip’s final day before going to the Lake View Cemetery to pay our respects at Wendy’s great grandfather’s grave. He came over from China and sent money back to Wendy’s grandfather’s family, affording her dad a chance to go to school and eventually come to the U.S. himself. How rad that we could take Eloise to his grave.


And it wasn’t bad that Bruce and Brandon Lee’s graves were in sight at the same cemetery. There have been many excellent martial arts masters and movies since Bruce Lee died in 1973, but I don’t think there’s been another Asian actor to cross over like he did, making Asian culture cool to the masses. He was the Cha Cha King and studied philosophy at UW before taking his first disciple, writing a book, or making a movie–a cultural badass on an elite level.


Afterward, we went to a smal-but-cool Bruce Lee exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum in Chinatown. It was rad to see Lee’s handwritten notes and old photos from his days in Seattle. There were interesting videos with anecdotes from Linda Lee, Taky Kimura, and Dan Insosanto, and some cool artifacts, as well. (Many from an old friend Jeff Chinn.) But what was up with the no photos policy? Keeping correspondence private is understandable but let us tourists take pics in front of the bust or wall of magazine covers! This was the first of three exhibits, so I’m hoping the rules will be tweaked as it goes on. Hoping for contributions from non-JKD Nucleus members, too. Where’s Kareem? Eric So?


Afterward we had an early dinner at Tai Tung, the last remaining restaurant in Chinatown where Bruce ate. The host was a really cool old dude who told us that fans from all over the world come to take a pictures in Bruce’s booth. We had one of his favorite dishes before heading to the Sea-Tac airport to shop at the Sup Pop store, fly home, and look forward to our next family vacation. Of course, the real challenge is to do interesting, inspiring, and cool stuff with your family every day no matter where you are… See you out there.

Part 1 of 3: Olympia and Portland
Part 2 of 3: Vancouver BC

Author: martinkendallwong2014

Co-founder of Giant Robot magazine (RIP) and Save Music in Chinatown (since 2013)

2 thoughts on “PacNW Trip 3 of 3: Seattle”

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