Sepia Salesman

This week I cleave to the Sepia Saturday theme of hotels by remembering my maternal grandfather, Art Singer.

Art and a sample suit.
Art was a travelling dress salesman. Twice a year, for the fall and spring fashion seasons, he and a passel of his fellow salesmen would make their way up the coast bearing dozens of dresses to show to the buyers of all the major department stores. In 1960s downtown Seattle, these were Frederick and Nelson, I. Magnin, The Bon Marche, Rhodes, and a few others. The guys would hole up in the Benjamin Franklin Hotel and invite the buyers up to peruse their wares.

Most of the buyers were women, I believe, and for this purpose Art, always had a box of See's chocolates on hand to help soften up his customers.

For the male buyers, and Art's cohorts, there was also a bottle of Johnny Walker and a Playboy magazine.
Anyway, there is oddly a lot of online information about the old Ben Franklin. Built in 1929, it was the second largest hotel in Seattle, with 359 rooms in its 14 stories. 

One of the big draws for the salesmen, as well as others, was the "tiki bar" conveniently attached to the Ben Franklin. Originally named The Outrigger, it soon expanded and transformed into the famous Trader Vic's.

Note the quaint, politically incorrect signage. Our family car, by the way, was a two-tone (banana and battleship) 1950 Chevrolet, named"Uncle Wiggily" and very similar to that one on the right.
Note the stunningly affordable 1960s prices.

Alas, the hotel closed in the 1980s, although Trader Vic's carried on for some years catering to "Mad Men" and hipsters.

If you're into tiki bars, check out this feature on the Ben Franklin Outrigger at Tiki Central.

My great-great uncle on my father's father's side owned a hotel in downtown Detroit, the Blindbury Hotel. But that's another story!


The Royal Portable

This week's Sepia Saturday theme features typewriters. This is a machine I have not a little familiarity with, having been intimately involved with them from rather an early age.

This model I am experimenting with is a 1948 Royal Poetable. I mean, Portable.
This machine belonged to my mother. Given its vintage, I assume she treated herself to it the year she won the University of Michigan's Hopwood Award for fiction. Here she is around that time, looking literary.
However, she handed it down to me in the early 1970s, as I embarked on my own poetic career at the University of Washington. Here's the site of our "poetry workshop": Parrington Hall, with several of the poetry students taking a break. Summer of '72, I was 18 and most of my friends, from the class, were at least four or five years older.
Jim Mitsui third from left, Kay Deeter standing at center
That's my father at the podium, with the inimitable Frank Maloney eclipsing him.
Reading the announcements
I brought my camera one night. Actually I borrowed it from a fellow student, Daphne. I got arty widdit.
Poet's eye view: under the table 

The lonely cup

Window open: in those days you could smoke in class

The side exit
That's Daphne on the left, with her sister, at one of the three poetry readings held every week (in addition to the two poetry classes -- a full schedule!).
After class at 9 PM, several of the class members would retire to the local pub, actually Woerne's European Pastry Shop. You could smoke in there too.
From left: Unknown, my little sister Julian (!?), Ronnie Church, Anne Pitkin, Jim Mitsui, Charles Webb, Frank Maloney, Linda Engel,  Nick Seguin
And here is the culprit himself, pretending to work on a poem.
Note that my keyboard technique has not changed since toddlerhood.
I have long since graduated to a computer, and have recently returned the Royal Portable to my mother, who no longer can use it but keeps it as an icon of her college days. Amazingly, you can still get ribbons for it!


Rapid Transit

This entry, hewing closely to the Sepia Saturday theme of tunnels, is primarily audiocentric rather than photographic, but bear with me! I just wanted to share...

Some background: Last year I traveled to the Bay Area to meet some long lost relatives. That alone was a cosmic experience.

But I was particularly shaken -- and not just physically -- while traveling on the rapid transit system from the airport to Oakland. The sound -- the pure noise, if you will -- that the train makes, especially as it passes through its long tunnel beneath the bay, is extraordinary. Not only almost painfully loud, but the otherwordly microtonal polyharmonics and polyrhythms that emanate from the rails chilled my soul.

I recommend that you put everything aside for 11 minutes, put on some headphones, turn the volume up to maximum, and then sit back as this video plays. Close your eyes to fully appreciate the subtle, metamorphing complexity of the sound.

...There, wasn't that effing amazing?  I could not help, as I sat there in my train seat, but be reminded of the dramatic, magnificent cacophony of Gyorgy Ligeti's "Requiem," popularized in "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Here's the pertinent excerpt.)

...Interestingly, many scenes accompanying the Ligeti look remarkably like you're travelling down a cosmic tunnel...

While we're at it, here's another terrific maelstrom of a composition that I was reminded of during that ride, by the European group, Magma.

...And magma of course is known to create "lava tubes."

(Photo from http://www.campingroadtrip.com/outdoor-living-newsletter-august-2012/best-caves-and-caverns)


My Many Hats (2. The Spy)

This week I depart ever so slightly from this week's Sepia Saturday "games" theme: although as a child I dearly loved proper games such as Uncle Wiggily, Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, Scrabble, and so on, much of my playtime was taken up with role-playing. The heyday of this activity began around fifth grade, 1965, when spies came into my realm of knowledge.

And soon enough I created my own spy, writing a collection of lavishly illustrated short stories of his outlandish exploits.
Simon Ferret, Esq., the UK's only "internationally known clairvoyant espionage agent"
Here's how that came about... What with the Cold War being in full swing (let me tell you some time about my Cuban Missile Crisis experience), spies were in the news and on the entertainment front. The James Bond films were too mature for me, but my mother did introduce me to The Man from UNCLE on TV, which I quickly became obsessed with. I took it deadly seriously, not realizing it was a spoof.

I acquired the requisite related materiel, from bubblegum cards, the soundtrack album, and books spun off from the series, to Corgi models of the UNCLE cars...

From here I quickly followed along with the popularity of the genre, soaking in episodes of the debonair I Spy g-men Robert Culp and Bill Cosby...

the peerless Avengers, with Emma Peel's Lotus and John Steed's (wait for it) BENTLEY, both of which Corgi also happily offered...

Pre-007 Roger Moore as The Saint with his dashing Volvo...

Bond himself eventually, with the classic Aston-Martin, which Corgi sold with all its bells and whistles...

Maxwell Smart and Agent 99, in Get Smart, which spoofed the spoofs with a wimpy little Sunbeam Alpine...

Honey West, who, to be fair wasn't a spy but a private eye, but still had a hot car, an AC Cobra...

And the creme-de-la-creme, Patrick McGoohan as The Prisoner, hot on the heels of his Secret Agent (aka Danger Man)... in his Lotus 7

So back to Simon Ferret... it's hard to say whether his derring-do or his collection of rare automobiles was more important to his stories. 

He kept many garagefuls of them scattered around Europe for use at the drop of a bowler...typically attached to his palatial residences.

One of Simon's humble abodes

Spot these features in Simon's workroom: opaque projector, table of the elements, movie screen, hazmat suit, shortwave radio, and a ...er ...computer.

Simon's living room contained: the de rigeur lava lamp, fireman's pole to the lower floor, elevator-pedestal to the upper floor, an American-style phone booth, and a marmite dispenser.
I developed Simon into an alter-ego, becoming an obnoxious Anglophile to the extent of affecting a generic British accent (fluctuating wildly between BBC and a Beatle-y scouse) which still I slip into at odd moments to this day. 


The Coffee Brewing or Just After

The bikini baristas in the coffee shack down the road have moved on but their color scheme remains.

Apologies to William Carlos Williams