Wacky Week Podcast EPISODE #172

This week, I’m taking you down to the streets of Ballard where every year, a champion is determined. Yes, several people actually compete to be the winner of Ozzy’s World Famous Lutefisk Eating Contest, during Ballard’s annual Seafoodfest. So that you don’t have to see or smell it, I thought I’d give you a front row seat on the Internet.


Wacky Week Podcast EPISODE #161

This week, I take you to Grand Opening weekend for the brand-new Nordic Museum in Seattle (Ballard), chatting with three of the key folks–Marianne Forsblad, along with the museum’s Jan Colbrese and Eric Nelson.

                                       

 

Might as well toss in this article about the museum from AAA

I Blame Myself

It’s me. I was the one. Point all the fingers my direction. I’m the one to blame.

I don’t remember the exact moment, but I’m very sure at some point I committed the regrettable. Just like in a slasher movie when of the characters says, “Let’s hide in here. The guy with the hockey mask and chainsaw will never find us!”, I know that at some point in my existence I must have said the words out loud: “How could May possibly get any busier?”

After all, there’s Mother’s Day and Memorial Day Weekend. Cinco de Mayo usually tempts us to do something. Oh and there’s my wife’s birthday, my sister-in-law’s birthday, my father-in-law’s birthday and my granddaughter’s birthday.

Tuesday night, I was privileged to enjoy a Norwegian Dinner called Torske Klubben, an all-guys gathering up at the Everett Lodge with a 40-year tradition.

There’s the big 17th of May celebration coming up later this month in Ballard for Norwegian Constitution Day, which means a luncheon and doing the play-by-play of the big parade. Plus, we make an event out of it and stay two nights at the Hotel Ballard so we can wallow in it.

I’d probably observe May 18th, the anniversary of the eruption of Mount Saint Helens back in 1980 since I was up to my arse in ash for a week, but I just plain don’t have time.

So how could I possible wedge in one more thing? Well, it’s actually several more things, all surrounding the grand opening of the brand-new Nordic Museum in Ballard.

On top of the social events (we’ve been invited to multiple “sneak peeks”–I’ve actually been there three times in the past week), I’ve been asked by the museum to grab video of as much as I can for historical purposes. So, when I’m not there schmoozing, I’ll have the camera rolling.

For the outsiders wondering why it’s such a big deal, let me give you some background. This has been a 10-year quest, appropriating the site, battling factions who wanted it in another location, those crazy Seattle real estate prices, construction costs, fund-raising, you name it. How everyone involved in making this happen doesn’t have completely white hair is nothing short of a miracle.

But for all the struggles, all the doubters, all the critics, this new museum is happening. Even while under construction, the New York Times listed it as one of the 52 places in the world to visit this year. The crowned Princes of Denmark is going to be here. The president and first lady of Iceland will be here. Night after night, there are special sneak previews (we’re going tonight), but the big ribbon-cutting and grand opening is scheduled for this Saturday at high noon. It will be a small gathering of me, my wife and 2500 other near and dear friends. I understand admission to the museum that day is sold out, but you might be able to get in on Sunday. Visit their website for details.

So a couple of days into the month, I’m hanging on. It’s all fun, it’s all part of the busy adventure I call life. And I suppose the good news here is that there’s absolutely no way now that May could get any busier.

Oh, crap.

Tim Hunter

 

 

Hey, We Elected Them!

I love this city.  Since moving to Seattle in 1973, there are few days that don’t amaze me with its beauty.  Yeah, the traffic continues to worsen, but we’re working on that and everything should be fine in around 245 years.  Patience.

However, I lost some respect for our city leaders this week when I attended a public hearing about a proposed homeless camp at 28th & Market Street in Ballard.  While we don’t live in Ballard, our social life is centered on the many events that take place in that part of town and when and we have lots of friends there.  So, when Victoria suggested we attend this hearing, I was all for it.

As we walked up, there was a huge crowd outside the VFW hall, which, if this camp becomes reality, would border the homeless camp.

The parking lot next to the site was packed

The parking lot next to the site was packed

Now, before we go any further, let me just say that the homeless issue has become very much like politics.  You’re either on one side or the other.  Both sides feel that if you start talking and aren’t reflecting what I feel, then you’re a cold, heartless person or a bleeding-heart idiot.

My feeling is this–the homeless need help.  Not enabling, help to make their lives better.  Some ended up there through bad life choices or bad luck.  They are human beings.  They should get our help.

The rest (and what often seems to be the majority) of them have substance abuse or mental issues and will not get better with a couple of bucks or a tent.  But there’s a sincere if not misguided group of people who feel if we cater to those sleeping on the streets, if we wait on them hand and foot, if we don’t expect them to change but accommodate their lifestyle, then we are doing God’s work. And, of course, it comes back to the point where if you disagree with that, you’re ignorant, afraid, or just aren’t of a higher intelligence.

That’s exactly what happened at the hearing last Monday night.  But let me give you the background of how we got there.

The city of Seattle has decided that a temporary solution to homelessness is to give them a chunk of city land and tents.   Then it proves to the world that Seattle cares.  Just a few of the cracks in the logic of that theory?

There are up to 3,000 homeless in Seattle.  This camp would house 50, as soon as September and for up to two years in a row. Then relocate for a year, followed by up to another two-year engagement.

So, of Seattle’s 3,000 homeless residents, which 50 are going to be lucky enough to get a spot in this little village? Is it some of the existing homeless in Ballard, or a fresh crop to add to the numbers?

Oh, did I mention that the land parcel being considered–owned by Seattle City Light–needs toxic waste cleanup, to the tune of $145,000?  Oh and because City Light owns it, the city would pay to rent the land.

And there was a tree there that mysteriously was cut down, despite an existing city ordinance that supposedly protects healthy trees. The councilman was under the impression that it was an unhealthy tree. But he probably wasn’t counting on that city arborist stepping up to the microphone and saying he felt the tree was healthy and there was no reason to have cut it down.

Unless, maybe, you’re planning to railroad through this plan to turn the lot into a tent city?

Mayor Murray apparently assembled a 19-person panel to select the possible sites for more tent cities, starting with 140 or so and whittling them down to 3 finalists and 4 alternate sites.

You have to wonder how 28th and Market Street was chosen as a ‘preferred’ site? Must be because of the families in the units on the hill above, who would be lucky enough to look down on it every day. Or perhaps the V.F.W. Hall whose parking lot bumps up against the lot. They have major concerns that hall rental income would be greatly reduce when potential renters realize their wedding or reunion guests will have to park right next to a homeless camp.

And did we mention how this site has a liquor store, a convenience store full of high-octane beer and wine and a marijuana store all a block or two away?

While the mayor and the council were invited to this gathering to explain their thinking, only Council member Mike O’Brien was brave enough to show up. Kudos to him. However, it’s probably because he lost a series of coin tosses and was chosen as the council representative to spout the city thinking: People act like this when they’re full of fear (we weren’t) or don’t understand what’s best for the homeless. (Oh, tell us, oh wise and all-knowing ones. We are but ignorant common citizens who cannot think of such clever use of vacant lots).

Dori Monson took on this topic the other day and asked a good question. Since churches have hosted homeless tent villages for years because they’re on private property, why don’t the council members including O’Brien, open up their front and back yards and allow homeless to camp there? In fact, here’s a question—Mr. O’Brien, how close is the nearest homeless tent village to your home? In Ballard?

The point was also made that the homeless have almost become a protected species. Very few are ever arrested for trespassing or public intoxication. The homeless advocates live in a world where people on the street are our fault. Again, I’m very in favor of doing things that will help them get better, recover from their addictions, find their way back. However, the majority of current steps are simply to perpetuate their lifestyle, not remedy it. Add to that, it seems as though word is spreading—come to Seattle and we’ll take care of you!

Instead of thinking that being homeless is unacceptable, it has become a lifestyle.

Let’s take them off the streets for a moment and make them a member of your family. So, Cousin Jake has developed a heroin problem and hasn’t had a job in years. So, the solution is to give him that extra bedroom, bring him food and let him live in your house with your wife and kids? You wouldn’t do that for a family member. So, why would you expect a community to welcome homeless camps with drug deals and God knows what else is going on in there?

Advocates who portray these tent cities as a structured second chance are kidding themselves.

It’s as if these people grew up thinking these people are the lovable hobos like Red Skelton portrayed. Again, there are serious, real hard-luck cases out there that deserve our help. But if Seattle is already spending $20-million a year on homeless issues and things are getting worse, not better, you might think our elected officials might consider a different approach to the problem.

I’ve spoken with several police officers who worked in a community that housed such a tent city. The drug deals, some fights, sex under the local school bleachers….the problems are real, not exceptions.

They need counseling, intervention, therapy AND housing. We, as a society, need to help, not enable. We need to be driven by concern, not political grand-standing and guilt.

For those who are interested, the vice-Mayor of Seattle is going to be at the Leif Erikson Lodge in Ballard next Wednesday night for one more hearing on the topic. It starts at 6:30pm. The hall holds 500 people and I’m expecting it to be packed, so if you’re going, get there early.!

I’m also expecting everything said to fall on deaf ears. Through the back doors, I’ve heard this is a done deal. The camp will go in, regardless of who says what, because they know better.

And remember, we elected them.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

 

There Is No Cod

Cod

Cod is dead.

The time-honored tradition of the Lutefisk Eating Competition at Seafoodfest in Ballard is over.

When I hadn’t received the call to emcee the championship eating event for this upcoming weekend, I went to the website.  Nothing. So I emailed the Ballard Chamber and they confirmed it: the annual Lutefisk Eating Contest had been scrapped.

It may come back next year, it may not.

Yeah, it gave me something to do and kept me off the streets, but I know there exists a die-hard collection of lutefisk eaters who are going to show up on Saturday and be greatly disappointed.

If you’d like to make a comment to the Ballard Chamber about dropping the competition, I’d suggest you go to their Facebook page by clicking here

Since you will be deprived of witnessing a 2015 edition of this northwest tradition, I offer a collection of “Great Moments” that will live on YouTube forever.

 Here are the finals of the 2009 contest

Who could forget the father and son finale` of 2010?

2011 was a fun year

There was the 2012 return of a past champion

 I’m just not sure I want to be part of a codless society.

 

“Oh, somewhere down in Ballard, yes, the sun is shining bright;

A band is playing somewhere, while some folks drink Bud Light

And one less cod will soak in lye, no need for fans to shout,

There is no joy in Ballard. The mighty lutefisk is out.”

Lutefisk eater

Tim Hunter

 

Louie’s! Louie’s! They Gotta Go!

20140625_181109

Word is spreading slowly in the Ballard community, but Louie’s of China closes forever this Sunday.  Here’s a very nice note from the owner.

I can’t say this was a long-time favorite spot because I’ve driven by it for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually went to Louie’s for the first time.  And, it was awesome.  It became one of those places that everybody knew about, but would forget to go.

Oh, there are the regulars and the folks who make it to the happy hours and the occasional dinners.  But had Louie’s been as busy as it has been this last week of operations, they might have considered staying open a little long. Maybe.

Then again, $2.49-million to retire is a pretty tempting offer.

Yep, the place has been sold and is most likely destined to be a future condo complex in Ballard.  There are rumblings about the owners or at least involved parties re-opening somewhere else in town.

Louie’s has been around for three generations.  No doubt, the building needed some serious work.  As 15th became busier and busier, it has become more difficult to get there from the north end of town.

After making my initial visit a couple of months ago, the moment I heard about it was closing, I felt compelled to work in one more dinner.  It was only my second time at the place and it did not disappoint.  The place was hopping, with a crowd of people waiting to be seated when we arrived, but fortunately they take reservations. (you can even do it on Open Table)

The Ballard version of The Last Supper

The Ballard version of The Last Supper

However, I wouldn’t wait.  If you’re after one more Louie’s of China experience, make it quick.  After Sunday, it joins the long list of all those other places that used to be in Ballard.

Sorry to see it go, but glad we met.

20140625_185906

Tim Hunter

 

Syttende Mai to you, too!

MJ & Me

MJ & Me

It’s Syttende Mai Eve.  Do you open your aquavit on Syttende Mai Eve or Syttende Mai morning?

For the non-Nordic types reading this, the world in which I find myself these days is heavy on the Norwegian side and every 17th of May is a big deal. It’s Syttende Mai, or for those of us without Google translator handy, Norwegian Constitution Day.

And so?

Well, in Seattle, in the Nordic suburb of Ballard, Norwegians near and far gather to celebrate day.  This year, being on a Saturday, promises to be quite the celebration.

What makes the 2014 edition even more special is that it’s the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution and the 125th year of the parade in Seattle!  In fact, our Syttende Mai parade is the largest in the U.S. and second only to one held in Norway.  The size of the parade actually rivals the annual Seafair Torchlight Parade.

However, while there are marching bands and drill teams, V.I.P.’s and such the bulk of the parade is filled with Norwegians and their various groups from all over the area.  Sons of Norway lodges, Daughters of Norway, the chorus groups, the clubs…they’ll be there marching through Ballard, rain or shine, starting at 6pm.  For the third year in a row, I have the honor of being one of the parade announcers, along with Ballard resident and Q13 weather goddess, M.J. McDermott.

The day begins with Mayor Ed Murray making an appearance at Bergen Place Park at 10am to kick off the day.  There’s a sold-out lunch with VIP’s at the Leif Erikson Lodge and then various happy hours throughout Ballard to get the marchers ready for the big event.

So, if see people running around on Saturday dressed up in their Norwegian outfits, now you’ll know why.  If you want to blend in, say something like, “Nice bunad!” (BOO-nod) or, “Hurrah for Syttende Mai!” (sitten-de-MY) and you’ll probably be asked to join one of their organizations!

Remember, all the Norwegians are IN the parade, so if you’d like to help make up the crowd, it steps off at 6pm.

Tim Hunter