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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Nothing seems more quintessentially "Northwest" than tugboats, and this weekend you can tour them, see them pass by in a procession, and even watch them race, plus so much more. It all happens during the Harbor Days Maritime Festival and Tugboat Races in Olympia, Washington. This annual event, now in its 41st year, takes place at Percival Landing, 405 Columbia St. NW, from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31. 

In addition to enjoying the tugboats, you can sample a worldwide menu of food, including Pacific salmon prepared according to tribal traditions, with alder wood and hot rocks, by experts from the Chehalis Tribe's Lucky Eagle Casino. Live entertainment, kids' activities, and over 250 booths featuring arts and crafts and more will keep the whole family busy. You can even meet Lenny Lekanoff, the deckhand from the television show "Deadliest Catch," a popular feature on the Discovery Channel. He and another crew member, who is in his 90s and still working, will be special guests aboard the tug Galene. 

Other attractions bring railroad history to life, highlighting connections with Olympia. Tacoma Rail's Centennial Celebration will take place at the Port Plaza, and Kitsap Live Steamers will offer rides on a small train set up on a track 100 feet long.

There is truly something for everyone at this great event. Different activities happen on different days, so be sure to check the event website for the schedule. Here is a link to handy map of Olympia and Percival Landing. Enjoy this great occasion!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014


Artwork by Shaun Peterson

I am proud that my ancestors were among the earliest pioneers to settle on Vashon Island in Puget Sound, literally camping under a gigantic fallen tree until they could build a house, but now I'm reassessing the significance of their bold adventure in light of a new exhibit at the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association's Museum. The truth is, other people's ancestors precede mine by thousands of years. Yes, thousands. I grew up on the island as the fifth generation of my family there and am learning from this exhibit, called "Vashon Island's Native People: Navigating Seas of Change," running now through March 15, 2015. The co-curators are Laurie Tucker and Rayna Holtz.

Although my relatives were among the first Caucasians to establish themselves on Vashon, a group of Native Americans called the "sxwobabc"—meaning "swift water people," part of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians—had already been on the island for so long that my family's presence occurred in what is the equivalent of the last few seconds on the time continuum of human habitation in that place of shadowy forests, meadows, and driftwood strew beaches. In their carved cedar canoes, they glided over the waters between their own villages and others in nearby places that would come to be called Gig Harbor and Commencement Bay. You can read more about the sxwobabc people Vashon History.

Ghosts must walk the beach on Quartermaster Harbor. In the same place where my ancestors first stepped ashore in 1880, the original inhabitants once lived in thriving villages and built a longhouse. During my childhood, I knew some Native Americans had lived on the island, and a few still did, blending into the background of our small town society, but I had no concept of the extent or significance of the native settlements there. 

Lucy Gerand digging clams in Quartermaster Harbor — photo courtesy of VMIHA
A baby girl born in that longhouse on Quartermaster Harbor, in 1843, grew up to be Lucy Slagham Gerand. So what happened her and to the other native residents of Vashon Island who preceded her? By the time my relatives arrived, rather late in the era of western expansion, the inevitable clash of vastly different cultures had already taken its toll on the native people. Diseases to which they had no resistance ravaged the population, and the rapid pace of white settlement saw them displaced and sent to live on reservations, all within the short span of one generation. 

As a nine-year-old, Lucy went to the mainland with her parents to witness the signing of a misleading treaty in 1854. It manipulated the Puyallup Tribe into giving up valuable land and set in motion a future that would bring a century or more of prejudice, discrimination, and hardship before they would thrive again.  Eventually, as a grown woman, she moved back to Vashon with her husband, John Slagham. The pioneers all knew and remembered her well, which means my own family members did too. In 1918, she told an anthropologist the names the sxwobabc gave to places on the island, and later, in 1927, in a U.S. Court of Claims, she further described the island villages she remembered from her childhood and provided more details of daily life. If not for this one person, we would all have remained ignorant, as ignorant as even the island's first white historian apparently was.

I grew up in an era where ideas of our country's history were still influenced by the concept of Manifest Destiny. It is chilling to go even farther back in time and look at evidence of prevailing attitudes in the past. A book published in 1935 titled "History of Vashon-Maury Islands," by O.S. Van Olinda includes the following incorrect and particularly disturbing statements: 

"The first residents of the island were, of course, Indians, but they cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called 'settlers,' because they did not settle. They wandered about from place to place, living where the living was easiest, on the game, fish, clams and wild berries and roots. They did no farming and tended no flocks. The did nothing to better their own condition. The Puget Sound Indian, in fact, is classed, even by other Indian tribes, as the about the lowest form of human existence." 

In other words, a society living simply and in harmony with nature—in a place that happened to offer a mild climate and so much natural abundance—was scorned by many of the white newcomers, even though that culture was actually ancient and complex, richly spiritual, and infused everyday life and everyday objects with art. It was seen as somehow lazy and suspect to have a culture not built on the aggressive struggle required of the pioneers. The exploitation of resources and dominance over the land and every living thing on it were seen by them as both rights and virtues, all part of a completely different way of viewing the relationship of humans to their environment. 

My ancestors were good people, and I am proud of their boldness, vision, hard work, and the community they helped to build. They did not personally displace the native population, and I know enough about them to know they would have treated all people kindly. Yet, as one who has always considered myself a "native" of the island, even though I don't live there now, I want to pay homage to the true natives whose lives were so harshly impacted by the earlier invasion of people who looked a lot like me. Although Native Americans still face challenges, the Puyallup Tribe is now prospering. You can learn more about their culture and that of Vashon's first residents through this outstanding exhibit. 

The museum is easy to find. From ferry terminals on either the north or south ends of the island, just take the main road to the one blinking traffic light in the village of Vashon and turn west onto Bank Road SW. On the next block, on the south side of the street, you'll see a little yellow former church building with the number 10105, at and that's it. If you want a map and better directions, click here.

Vashom-Maury Island Heritage Museum

The museum has also scheduled a presentation on September 13, 2014 by notable Native American artist and recognized expert on South Coast Salish Design Shaun Peterson, whose native name is Qwalsius. Thanks to a grant from 4-Culture, the VMIHA commission him to create the sculpture seen on the poster above, made of red and yellow cedar, steel, and glass, celebrating the ties between the Puyallup Tribe and Vashon Island. According to co-curator Laurie Tucker, "He'll be speaking about the differences between southern and northern Coast Salish art, and about Puyallup Tribe culture. He'll show photos of his work, which includes many public installations."

Shaun Peterson with his son Kai, with sculpture, on opening night — photo courtesy of VMIHA

Laurie also had this to say about the exhibit: "Scott Jones and Yvonne Lever have worked in museums for many years in various capacities, and we were very fortunate to have their help with the design and installation. We also met monthly with Brandon Reynon, who is an archaeologist with the Puyallup Tribe's Historic Preservation Department. He did a lot to guide our storyline, provided photos from the Tribe's collections, made corrections and answered our many questions with grace and patience. 

Sandra Noel did graphic design work, producing a wonderful 'Seasonal Round' wheel with her drawings illustrating the seasonal activities of native people, before contact with Europeans. My sister, Lissa Mayer, spent three very long days helping with the installation. Many others helped with construction, painting the gallery, building display furniture, proof-reading, opening night festivities, much help!

Our husbands and children also helped a lot, both with support during all of the hard work and time spent planning, and with actual work during the gallery preparation and installation of the exhibit."

Her co-curator, Rayna Holtz, added: "Brandon Reynon's assistant, Nicole Barandon, has been especially warm and helpful to us in planning and publicizing the Karen Reed weaving program.  And we deeply appreciate the response of Teresa Harvey, a teacher at Chief Leschi School, who answered our invitation to celebrate the exhibit opening weekend by bringing a troupe of Chief Leschi Song and Dance students, who performed traditional dances on the grass by the Vashon Library and then toured the exhibit."

All contacts with members of the Puyallup Tribe have helped us shape this exhibit to tell the stories of their ancestors more accurately and respectfully."

After so many people have worked so hard to bring us this wonderful exhibit, wouldn't you like to see it? Of course you would. Here is all you need:

Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association
10105 Bank Road SW
PO Box 723
Vashon Island, Washington 98070

The Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association thanks the sponsors who have made this exhibit possible, including 4Culture, Puget Sound Energy, DIG, Beth de Groen, Rick’s Diagnostic & Repair Service, The Hardware Store, John L. Scott Real Estate, and the Northwest School of Animal Massage. The exhibit will close March 15, 2015. For more information, go to .

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Photo: Courtesy of Frank Ferrante
I am not one to read the same book, or watch the same movie, twice, but I could hardly wait for my third chance to see the amazing actor Frank Ferrante portray his idol, Groucho Marx, in "Groucho Returns" at Seattle's ACT Theatre. It made no difference that I had already reviewed "An Evening With Groucho" in 2012 and again in 2013 (See "'An Evening With Groucho' is An Evening Well Spent.") Called "Groucho Returns" in this instance, the show's variety of songs, history, anecdotes, piano music by straight man sidekick, Mark Rabe, and Ferrante's totally unpredictable interaction with the audience, will fill the seats while it plays through August 24. The show is a production of The Central Heating Lab and directed by Dreya Weber. Don't wait too long to get your tickets.

The stage in the Bullitt Cabaret at ACT—which Ferrante's Groucho irreverently refers to as "the dungeon" occupied by a "motley looking crowd"—the stage seemed just as I remembered it: piano, sofa, Oriental rugs, heavy draperies, tables, lamps, books, and parlor palm, typical of the 20th Century's first decade. If I hadn't already met Ferrante, I probably wouldn't have paid attention to the handsome, dark haired man wearing a trench coat and beret who quietly blended in with people entering the theater, only to pass through the room and disappear through a door in the back before reappearing shortly after, on the stage. Then, we'd watch him put on his makeup, hear his voice magically begin to change, and see him pick up his cigar. Right before our eyes, Ferrante would become Groucho Marx. After all, he has spent the past 30 years studying and impersonating his favorite of the Marx brothers.

Photo: Courtesy of Frank Ferrante
So why would I want to see this show every time it returns to Seattle? Even though he has performed it over and over for years, even in London, New York, Australia, and on PBS, it is never the same. It is always engaging and full of surprises. I suspect that being in the presence of the real Groucho gave people the same edgy anticipation the audience feels at ACT, never knowing whether or not they will be one of the people on whom the ad lib humor is focused. If you are, you'd better be a good sport. It's never mean spirited, but could cause blushing. You also never know what will come out of his Ferrante's mouth, and that's part of the fun. Then there are the timeless Groucho lines, songs, and antics. People in Seattle seem to thrive on this, and Ferrante thrives on Seattle.

Photo: Courtesy of Frank Ferrante
I asked him to describe what he likes best about this area. He mentioned the vital Seattle theater scene, the audiences, and the creative talent pool in this city, as well as the natural beauty and sense of community as reasons he loves to come back.

"I have opportunity here to evolve my interactive brand of theater, performing hundreds of times improvising in Teatro ZinZanni as 'The Caesar' and returning now for a third summer at ACT with 'Groucho.' Both of the these venues emphasize live stage comedy performance, and for that I am grateful."

That sense of gratitude was one thing that struck me this time around and is likely a factor in this actor's great success. The charming differences from one performance of his tribute show to another, on this occasion included what I personally felt was a greater revelation of who Ferrante himself really is—a grateful, appreciative, and very nice man, in addition to one so talented. At the end of the evening, when the ghost of Groucho had said his goodbyes in a most touching and memorable way, Ferrante became himself again and expressed his thanks to Kurt Beattie, Carlo Scandiuzzi, and Alyssa Byer of ACT, as well as Norman Langill, founder of Teatro ZinZanni. He was not acting when he showed his warmth and sincerity.

If you're too young to remember Groucho Marx's movies or TV show, "You Bet Your Life," it doesn't really matter. He wasn't the only master of impromptu comedy and crazy antics. As you will see, even as Frank Ferrante celebrates the famous Groucho Marx, he is every bit as good, and that's enough reason for me to drive to Seattle every time "Groucho Returns." I hope ACT will have him back next year so I can go a fourth time. It's a happy habit. 

Now, here's a taste: 

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Hydrangeas -- Blue and (making me) Sentimental

Dear Readers,

 I know many of you love hydrangeas as much as I do, so even though this post was originally published during the month of July in a past year, I felt like offering it again. This little story makes me feel good. I hope it will do the same for you. May the rest of your summer bring wonderful experiences you will someday savor as memories, as I do my own from childhood.

The gardener learns many lessons from plants, and here are two:

1.) Life is determined to go on.
2.) Nothing is inconsequential.

I think of these lessons when I see the hydrangeas in Point Defiance Park, here in Tacoma, as well as in my own garden.

Family stories always start out on what seemed like an ordinary day. Even though I hadn’t been born yet, I can picture the day when this story began, decades ago. I can see it in my mind, partly because I know July in the Northwest, or at least what it ought to be. July is when summer’s first flush of color is over, the lawn turns brown, and everything slows down. It’s the month of wet bathing suits hanging on the clothesline, mirages of heat hovering over blacktop, and baby pears forming on the trees. It had to be July because hydrangeas were blooming. Some things never change.

Hydrangeas at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma
At our place on Vashon Island our long, graveled driveway ran east in a straight line from what everyone called “the main road" and passed right by the seldom used front entrance of our old house before heading toward the back. A few steps alongside a bed of orange and yellow nasturtiums brought you to the screen door on the utility porch, which led to the kitchen. The welcome felt humble but warm. On summer days, the inner door to the kitchen stayed open and the outer screen door slammed about every two minutes, with kids running in and out.

I picture the day when this story begins as sunny, warm, and dry. I can’t tell you what occupied my mother at that hour, but something did, one of her endless household chores. Or she might have already been outside hanging clothes on the line or weeding a flowerbed. In any case, a car pulled into driveway, raising a little dust that hung in the still, warm air and she looked up to see who it was. 

 A friend, on the way to somewhere, had picked a big blue blossom from her own hydrangea bush and pulled up to our house to give my mother this small gift. I can picture Mom’s smile, the way she stood next to the open car window, holding the hydrangea bloom in her hand while they talked. And talked. And talked. Finally, she got tired of holding the top-heavy stem with its mop of little blue flowers, and she turned around and stuck it into a flowerbed next to the house.

Now that hydrangea cutting, like a newborn baby snipped from the umbilical cord, was shocked but still full of life. My mother poked it into the rich soil right near where an outdoor faucet jutted out from the wall, a place of perpetual dampness from the hose or the filling of the old galvanized watering can. She just stuck it there while they talked some more and eventually forgot about it. The friend drove off and the day went on. The little cutting, however, felt the damp soil and at some level of cellular awareness knew to start sending out its first small hairs of roots.

Do you ever think of how life is like a kaleidoscope, each colorful little piece of it ready to be shifted and changed at the slightest touch? When a branch is broken or pruned, growth takes off in a new direction. The encouraging or discouraging word affects the child’s mind. Intentionally or not, everything we do turns the cylinder just enough to tumble those pieces into a whole new design. The thoughts of a friend, the gift of a flower, the contact with moist soil, all worked together in an act of creation, and the next spring my mother noticed that the little cutting hidden among the weeds had rooted and lived and was sending out new growth. Over the summer it grew larger. By the next year, we had a hydrangea bush next to the house.

That hydrangea, embodying the hue of the sky on a perfect summer day, became part of home and my childhood. I can’t picture riding my bike down the driveway, being up in the limbs of the adjacent willow tree, or looking out the sewing room window without seeing it there, beautiful and enduring. Like my mother, its glory shone without pretension. Not as delicate or fussy as a rose, not as fragile as a lily, it graced our home in a quiet, charming way, always reliable, never demanding, just there. Maybe we took both it and her for granted.

That hydrangea witnessed the growth of a family. It witnessed kids learning to ride bikes. It witnessed teenaged daughters being kissed by the boyfriends who walked them to the door on summer nights as crickets chirped in the moonlight. It caught the sun's first rays from the east, at dawn. It made a good hiding place for cats seeking shade in the heat of the afternoon. I have a photo of myself standing in front of it with my brother, both of us in new clothes. It was taken on some September morning, our first day back at school. The flowers seemed to last forever, but when they finally turned tan and dry, and winter came, we always knew that in a few months buds would swell on the branches once again.

Now I am older than my mother was on that day long ago. I don’t live on the island anymore, but I still love hydrangeas. I even have a few in my own yard. As lovely as they are, they can only be reminders of the one at our old place, and the lessons it illustrated in shades of summer sky blue. Still, I’m grateful for this reminder that life pulses all around us, nature struggling against the abuses it endures, always hopeful, always attempting renewal.

 So how, today, will you shift the pieces of the kaleidoscope of your life? What will you do today to create a small change that can become a big change in a garden, the life of a child, the depth of a relationship, or the future of the planet Earth? The blue and sentimental hydrangea still has lessons to teach, if you only open your eyes and your heart.

Copyright 2012 Candace J. Brown 

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Every old truck has its own personality, like "Stanley" here, a 1946 Studebaker M-16 flatbed, owned by Al Downs of Tacoma, WA.* Stanley will be in good company at the 19th annual Antique Truck Show hosted by the Northwest Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in Olympia, WA. You will find this handsome guy among many, many other vintage trucks waiting to meet you face to face. You don't get to hang out with this cool crowd just any old time, so why not plan to go?

This event takes place at Kiperts Korner Feed, 8439 Old Hwy. 99 S., Olympia, WA 98501 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Admission and parking are both FREE and there will be food vendors on site. 

The ATHS Northwest Chapter website says the organization is "dedicated to preserving the dynamic history of trucks, the trucking industry, and its pioneers in the Pacific Northwest." In addition to antique and vintage trucks of all kinds, you can take a look at interesting static displays having to do with highway safety. 

These truck shows are so much fun for the whole family. You'll learn plenty about the history of trucks and see beautiful examples. I'm even providing a map, which you can access by clicking HERE, so no excuses. Stanley's expecting you. Ah... just look at that face...

*My article about this 1946 Studebaker truck will appear in the Nov./Dec. issue of Vintage Truck magazine. Follow the link to subscribe or order back issues, or simply call 1-888-760-8108. If you subscribe before Aug. 25 you will receive that issue as your first one. By clicking here, you can read the full text of my cover story about another truck that will also be at the show, the 1969 Dodge D-300 shown below, owned by Dan Kostelny of Olympia, WA, 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Natalie Gelman 

I have not yet had the pleasure of hearing the acclaimed Alyse Black live, so why am I promoting her show this Wednesday night, August 6, at the Triple Door in Seattle, with Natalie Gelman opening? Of course I know it will be good, just based on videos and credentials, (read more here) but there's another reason.

If anyone reading this happened to be at the Chalet Bowl Stage at the Proctor Arts Fest in Tacoma between 4:15 p.m and 5:30 p.m. last Saturday, Aug. 2, you know why I want to spread the word about Natalie Gelman. I managed that stage, for the third year in a row, and saw a phenomenon. By late afternoon on a hot day, many festival goers are tired and starting to drift away. It can be a struggle for performers in that time slot, but it certainly was not for the young singer/songwriter I'd hired. Natalie attracted, and held, the largest audience the Chalet Bowl Stage has ever seen during the last set. That audience included not only those seated, but also people who stood outside the tent until the very end at 5:30. Then they wanted more. They didn't want her to stop singing. 

So who is Natalie Gelman? She is a great talent, a beautiful young woman with a beautiful old soul, whose original lyrics and haunting voice can mesmerize people of all ages. Not only that, she was completely charming and natural. The audience fell in love with her. Here is a little bio from Natalie's website: 

"This street performing NYC troubadour has won over hearts across the country with her music, soulful voice, and dynamic songwriting. Natalie Gelman has performed everywhere from a subway platform to Carnegie Hall, finding herself in national publications like the NY Times and Billboard magazine because of it. Often compared to Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell and Jewel, Natalie is an artist in her own right - called “Simply Terrific” by the NY Post and named the 'poster girl for the solo, storytelling singer/songwriter' by Music Connection Magazine."

If you can't make it to the Seattle show, click here for her schedule of upcoming shows through this weekend, in Snoqualmie, Port Townsend, Darrington, and Camas, in Washington State, followed by many more in Oregon. 

At the bottom of the schedule page, you can hear (and buy) Natalie's original song, "The Lion," one she performed at Proctor Arts Fest. Why not check it out? 
You will be glad you did. Her she is on You Tube.

Again, here's your link to the Triple Door Box Office. Don't miss this show.

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