Saturday, August 23, 2014

Light and Heavy

WHAT HE SAID: Every once in awhile in our travels we run across graffiti that is all win. Today, we spied this on a retaining wall on the crest of Queen Anne hill. 

I made sure to tell the kids about Coach V (Jim Valvano) and why this message was so poignant.  

TREKKERS: We made time today to hit a couple of new-to-us spots in very familiar stomping grounds. Amazing how the 'unknown' is right under your nose sometimes. 

We parked on Queen Anne, around Raye and Second Ave North. From there, we wound our way south and east. Along the way, we walked under a number of chestnut trees, some already throwing off their green, spiky pods with nuts inside. Before long, we found ourselves on the stoop of the original John Hay Elementary, on Boston.
It's where my dad/the kids' grandpa (and his siblings) attended elementary school. It's a pretty little brick building with exquisite decorative details. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, John Hay is named after the man who was private secretary and assistant to Abraham Lincoln, Hay also served as the Secretary of State under William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.)

From there, we continued east, toward the bluff over Lake Union, winding our way down to a lovely, undeveloped green space called MacLean Park. 

From the city of Seattle's Web site, we learned the space is named after the MacLean family, who settled in the neighborhood around the turn of the 20th century. They built some of the neighborhood bungalows, and they owned much of the greenbelt property around where we were visiting, and all of the park site, which they sold to the city for preservation as public space.

Right now the park is mostly overgrown open space, but if you stand on the park benches on the plaza just west of this sign, you can see some really pretty sights.

Lake Union is in the foreground, and in the distance, you can see Lake Washington.

Look more closely, and you spy Gasworks Park (the rusty stuff up front), the University of Washington campus beyond (that tall building, and most everything around it), and the bridge that is Interstate 5.

For those not familiar with the area's attractions, there's a nice sign pointing them out. 

We made our way back toward where we'd left the car. As we headed back, we walked on one stretch of amazing homes with drop dead views. Funny, the kids didn't notice the homes or the vistas. Instead, they were like, "What's with this street? It's so nice!"

How sad is it that the kids notice a street that's not full of pond-sized potholes and obstacles, as is the norm in this city?
I agreed with them and told them that just a couple of weeks ago I'd read online a Seattle Department of Transportation statement making it clear the SDOT said they did not have money to repave residential streets, so basically people who lived on them had to pay for them themselves. I was sure that neighborhood underwriting was the case with this exceptional stretch of pavement. 

We made our way back to the junction of Raye and Second Avenue North, which is where quiet little Mayfair Park can be found.
It's a totally-off-the-beaten-path place, surrounded by tall trees. There's a ravine below the park's viewpoint, and per Seattle's parks department's Web site, it was the early-day “Killman’s Sand Bunkers.” The area was platted in 1907 by the Mayfair Land Co. 

There's a nice little play structure ...
and a great slide down the hillside.  Annabelle had to coax (coerce?) CJ down the chute. 
All in all, another lovely adventure on the streets of Seattle.   (The kids are on the McGraw overpass over the ravine below.)
REWRITING HISTORY: We dove back into our Coursera class  "The Camera Never Lies" this morning, in a big way. Our yesterday was full of music and flowers. This morning, it was all gulags, planned famine, and the mass execution of political enemies and purported "enemies of the state." Such were the life and times of the Soviet Union under Stalin. Experts agree that around 10 million Soviet citizens were murdered one way or another as a result of Stalin's dictatorship - and a big chunk of the ugly history was airbrushed away. Guess at its basest level the thought was, "If you can't see it, it didn't happen."

One of the more well known examples of this is the 'vanishing commissar,' Nikolai Ivanovich Yezhov. Yezhov was a secret police official under Joseph Stalin. You can clearly see Yezhov in this photograph, just to Stalin's left.
But lo and behold, a few years later, in an official photo, Yezhov is obliterated, like he never even existed.
There are so, SO many examples of disappearing people in the Stalin era.

Check out this photo of "Uncle Joe," friend of the little children, and six-year old Gelya Markizova. T
he photo was cropped to eliminate the first secretary of the Buryat Mongol ASSR, M.I. Erbanov, and soon Gelya would be an orphan.  Her father, Ardan Markizov, second secretary of the Buryat Mongol ASSR, was charged with spying for Japan and shot and killed. Her mother was also killed,  as the wife of an "enemy of the people."
(The three images above are in the public domain in the U.S., because their copyright was expired.)

A lot of the material we were introduced to today was pulled from the 1997 book "The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia," by David King.

We also read an excellent article today on the site, "Uncle Joe Stalin's Very Dark Darkroom ... Retouching the Past" By: Henry Allen, Washington Post Staff Writer. Allen made the point that "There's a touch of Stalin in us all, perhaps," noting that everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin D. Roosevelt had help via the airbrush. 


  1. Re...John Hay Elem - did you know YOUR GR Richstad and all his siblings attended there also!! It must have been a fairly new building for that generation. Jeannie was the last Richstad to attend, after having a Richstad there continually since Aunt Ingfrid first entered (Gr Richstad's oldest sister). I remember a news story about it with a picture of Jeannie and Aunt Ingfrid. I see they have renamed it Queen Anne Elementary, I guess to lessen the confusion with the "new" John Hay. I'm feeling "ancient" here!

  2. When we went to John Hay (60&70 years ago), the building now called QA Elementary was called "the old building" by every one including the teachers that worked in it. MacLean Park - never heard of it!!! Wonderful views, for sure.

  3. I think "Joseph Stalin" was not his original name. "Stalin" is the Russian word for "steel".