About Me

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Welcome to the Blackberry Chronicles. It's a personal blog and metaphorically speaking we called blackberry bushes, sticker bushes as kids. As a practicing philosophical eclectic of the arts, education and technology, this is a simple journal about life, growing up in the Pacific Northwest, and pretty much everything else.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Reflections: January 29, 2022

It’s my Mom’s birthday. She’d a been 98 today. Born in 1924, she grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This morning I read a few chapters from her 1990 memoir. 

Mom was a late arrival to the Larson family. Her Mother Edna was 44, and her Father Harvey was 50 when Mary Lee Larson was born. Their home was in Hillyard, Spokane. Grandpa was a cabinet maker for the Great Northern Railroad and he was one of the few that was gainfully employed during the depression.

In one chapter, Mom talks a lot about their daily life and routine. They had a wood and coal stove and none of the conveniences we assume today as necessary. Pretty much everything was done from scratch by hand like the Sunday chicken dinner. Grandma ran the house, Grandpa worked and took care of the yard, garden, chopped wood for the stove, and tended Edna's flower garden. I was moved to tears reading how affectionate they were and that they were such a loving partnership. 

To think in the 1930s this was before wall to wall carpets, vacuum cleaners, central heating, all rooms well lit, tv, computers, and the internet. Hot water for Saturday’s bath was from the side tank on the kitchen stove. They had a regimen, everyone their turn, and Grandpa was last and hopefully before dark because there was no light in the bathroom. 

We moved from the Highlands to Earlington in 1957. This is when my childhood memories really kick in. Mom was a great homemaker, an extremely energetic progressive, and a task master. My brothers and I all had our chores to do. She often quoted her sister Meldred. 

 “Many hands make the task small.”

Mom was always a voracious reader, she loved going to plays and musicals and volunteering for many causes around town. She enjoyed music, making clothes, art, entertaining, being social, Erma Bombeck, JFK, Emmet Watson of the Seattle Times, and happy hour. 

Bless you Mom and thank you! I'm eternally grateful.
Photo from 1961. It’s Harvey and Edna’s 60th wedding anniversary. They were engaged in 1898 and married in 1901. 

Back (LR) Meldred, Marjorie, and Mom, The Larson Girls.

#Family #FamilyHistory #HappyBirthdayMom #RentonWA #mypnwlife #ilovelocal #Spokane #Hillyard #pnwhistory

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Any Time You Give Fully

 Any time you give fully of yourself - there are elements of your old self that are dying because a new self is in the process of emerging.  - Van Neistat



Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time


Speaking of Kurt... He said on a few occasions that life after 60 (or was that 65?) was an epilogue. Geez I hope not, yet realize the truth of it. I feel in some way (almost 72) I’m just getting started. Mom always said I was a late bloomer. I wish I could talk to Mom and ask, “Just how late were you thinking?”


I love the fact that Van Neistat is such a DIY (self made) kinda guy. Though he’s much younger than I, he seems like an old soul and more akin to someone my age. My oldest daughter is a few years older than he. 


A survey marker downtown Renton, WA. 1/8/2022



I enjoy Van’s way of doing things. When I was a kid and a young man, it was never about the money or the equipment. If you had an idea you carried it out with whatever you had on hand at the time.


Make it yourself!



Thursday, August 26, 2021

For the Love of Maps: We were Bound to Mete

I’ve always had a passion for maps. It started when I was a kid. We grew up in a small neighborhood on the west edge of Renton that was right out of the movie American Graffiti. We were a little isolated because Sunset Highway cut us off from the rest of Earlington Hill on the north and the railroad tracks were a border to the south.

The rules were quite simple. We were free to roam just stay on our side of the highway. Across the street from our house was what we kids called the "Little Woods" and to the west a couple of blocks and down to the end of the alley past Taylor’s pasture was the "Big Woods.”

 

Mom could yell for us from the front porch when we were playing in the little woods, but when it was time to come home from the big woods, Dad would send our cocker spaniel Daisy to fetch us. We spent many a Saturday playing cowboys, explorers and Tarzan, but our favorite was playing Army. There were about a dozen of us guys that were close in age. We’d divide up into opposing platoons and head into the bush on patrol to find and hide from each other. We had tree houses and secret camps. We built rafts at the pond and swung on rope swings that were tied high up on large strategically located trees.

 

We communicated with mirrors flashing light signals, imitated bird calls, and left encrypted messages along the trails so our allies would know our whereabouts. Heading out in different directions we’d synchronize our watches to meet up at the big willow, the cave, or the secret sticker bush camp for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Planning was important and we spent a lot of time drawing elaborate maps of our missions.

 

Twenty five years later (1984) I’d find myself working at a title company and one of the cool things about it was the maps. My favorites were the Kroll Maps. These huge atlases were leatherette bound lithographed maps by section township range. The original cartography was done by hand and they were beautifully detailed with some details in color. We used them everyday all day long to locate property. On a busy day your arms got tired from hoisting them on and off the customer service counter. A Kroll Map set upright on the floor would almost come up to my shoulders and they were about 3 feet wide weighing anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds, depending on the volume.


Kroll Map, Seattle Center before Century 21.


An open atlas displays a section or one square mile. We got so good at it you could give us an address almost anywhere in the county and we'd call out the volume, page number and the quarter section. We took great pride in that and enjoyed the shock value it had with customers.

 

One thing I really liked about the Kroll Maps was you got a good indication as to how the property was created. We had that question a lot. "How was this lot created and what parcel did it originate from?" A lot of things 'run with the land' as we say in the biz and what you can ultimately do with your piece of the American Dream dirt is determined by agreements that were made and recorded at the county in the past. By comparing the older Kroll Maps with the updated assessor’s maps, we knew where to look next.

 

The Kroll Maps were truly a work of art and many skilled and talented cartographers collaborated to create them. They were not only beautiful, but they lasted for years and years even with heavy daily use and abuse. In the 1980’s a full set of Kroll Maps was our Google search engine.


I love the digital maps and technology we have for property search today, but nothing replaces the wonderful tactile experience you have when tracking down a parcel on a hardcopy map.

 

* Parcels of land created out of acreage, not formal county recorded subdivisions, have legal descriptions using Metes and Bounds. In simple terms this is the surveyor starting at a given known point and/or defining a specific location then describing the boundary like a detailed walk with step by step directions using a compass around the perimeter.


Saturday, July 3, 2021

KEEP THE LIGHTS ON

Spontaneous events that trigger random memories have always fascinated me. Case in point: Back in 2012 it’s an unusually warm and sunny mid October day at the Seattle Center. My long time friend Dave Hoskin and I are attending the International Antiquarian Book Fair. 

For over a decade we looked forward to this event every year. I totally enjoyed these days wandering from booth to booth, the treasure hunt for old books by authors known or not, and the conversations with vendors and fellow attendees. Afterwards we’d venture out for a walk to share our discoveries and encounters over a bite to eat and a beverage. This afternoon we’re on Queen Anne Avenue and I look up at the Uptown Theater’s marquee.

KEEP THE LIGHTS ON”, directed by Ira Sachs. My thoughts have nothing to do with the film, but the title triggered a ‘Way Back Machine’ memory and it transports me back to 1960.



I’m 10 and my brother Steve is 9. The sun is going down fast and early as October sunsets do, even on a nice day. We’re about to head out the door for Grandma’s from our home in Earlington. Mom and Dad are out, I don’t remember why, and we’re following the plan when the phone rings. It’s Grandma, “Now you boys be careful out there and get here as quick as you can. I worry about you two!”

Translation: Those of us kids here in the 1950s and 60s who had grandparents from the ‘Old Country’ (and almost all of us did) often heard these lovely phrases in a wide variety of broken English tonalities. They simply meant “be safe, I love you.”

We live just a mile from Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Tobin Ave behind Renton High School. It’ll only take us a few minutes to get there on our bikes. Grandma continues, “I’ll see you two when you get here. It’s dark out so I’ll ‘KEEP THE LIGHTS ON’ so you don’t get lost. Now watch out for cars and I’ll be looking for you!”

“Okay Grams, don’t you worry! We’re on our way! Love you and we’ll see you in a few!” 

Daisy, our cocker spaniel having completed her backyard pee and poop is now safely in the house with freshwater and a few biscuits. We scramble out the back door to grab our bikes from the garage and like warriors on a mystical autumn eve adventure (cue soundtrack: Rebel Rouser, Duane Eddy) we’re riding full tilt down the dark streets of Earlington, our neighborhood, full of anticipation for the dinner we know awaits. 

At Button’s Animal Hospital we bolt across the four lanes of Sunset Boulevard. It’s all downhill now so we’re flying past Langston Road and the Triple XXX Drive-In to Rainier Ave and downtown. As we cut north through the lot (before Safeway was there) to the school field, it’s pitch black and hard to see when suddenly this humongous sphere of intense bright light appears off in the distance over Tobin.

 “Oh My God, Grandma has the whole neighborhood lit up!” 

Neither Steve nor I can stop laughing as we cross the high school parking lot. “Oh Grandma! You have every light in the house on!” Every window shade is up, all curtains and drapes pulled wide open, even the garage lights out back are on!

About 100 yards out I’m thinking, “No way we're gonna get lost tonight Grandma!” As we’re coming down the last stretch we can see her pacing the front porch. She’s peering into the darkness with intense determination for signs of our arrival. 

Like sayings go, “It was so bright you could have seen it from space!”, but then I recollect it predates the NASA Mercury Program. That won’t be possible until at least February 20, 1962 when John Glenn becomes our first astronaut to orbit the Earth. 

Bless you Grandma, I’m so eternally grateful. Every kid deserves the love of a bright light to guide them in the night. It’s now a cherished memory from a guy getting older who remembers that ‘once upon a time’ there were two young boys in Renton living the dream in 1960. 

Dinner by the way (as always at Grandma’s) was absolutely wonderful!

(The Seattle International Antiquarian Book Fair and the (SIFF) Uptown Theater Marquee, October 14, 2012. Grandma Pauline's photo is a scan of a Polaroid photo (circa) 1968.)

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Blackberry Chronicles

I’m picking up the pen to blog again. I’m working on a memoir of my old neighborhood Earlington, in Renton, Washington. The first rough draft I’ve worked on over several months is mostly about when we moved here in 1956 through 1962 and the Seattle World’s Fair. 


These rough sketches are mostly about being a kid 7 to 12 years old. I’m having issues with it, several false starts, and I’m way too self conscious. There’s no flow to the stories yet, but I’m determined to keep it going. My motivation to complete it has a lot to do with documenting it for my kids. Like, there was a time before the digital age, the information age, the globally connected age, and here’s a few stories.


Our home in Earlington, Renton WA. (circa 1958)


I’m going to be 71 in a few weeks, so I’m likely facing (MAI) mortality awareness issues. I’ve thought a lot about Family history this last year and continue to feel the pangs of not having asked them the many questions I wish I would have before they passed from our physical plane to the ethereal cosmos.


This blog's title, The Blackberry Chronicles, denotes a deep reflection back to those days of innocence, though I’ve been very inconsistent about maintaining its themes and direction. And, very much like me, it’s totally eclectic and scattered with randomness and rabbit hole adventures. 


Building our clubhouse in the back yard. (circa 1958)

It has nothing to do with Blackberry phones! Though my first smartphone was one of them. Across the street from our home was the Little Woods and to the West a few blocks or so was The Big Woods. Many adventures would take place here and the blackberry bushes (or as we kids referred to them back then) ‘the sticker bushes’ prevailed. Great places for secret camps!


Now I’m plotting a new (old) course and at least for a while I plan to use it to work through some ideas, memories and stories of these early days so my kids have a record.


Mom and her sisters, Auntie's Marjorie and Mildred. (circa 1957)


Our neighborhood was only a mile and a nice walk to downtown. It was rural in nature and feel. It was an old neighborhood on the west side of town. No sidewalks, open drainage ditches, a few street light bulbs on telephone poles here and there and no cul-de-sacs. It was a simple old grid and most every home had an alley with a garage out back. Our little niche was the area below Sunset Highway, also known as Dunlap Canyon Road, then later Martin Luther King Jr. Way.





I live on the East Hill now, heading up past City Hall on Benson Road.




Sunday, October 27, 2019

Lake Washington Boulevard, Seattle


Lake Washington Boulevard, Seattle

October 10, 2019

I'm driving north up Lake Washington Boulevard for University Village Seattle this morning to teach a marketing class at the Microsoft Store.

I enjoy this lakeside drive and the views, but especially I like avoiding the morning commute up Interstate 5 into the city. 

Lake Washington Blvd, Mt Baker Park, Seattle.
Lake Washington Blvd at Mt Baker Park

The autumn yellows and reds are just beginning. My CD player is freshly loaded with music and my iPhone with podcasts. Let's do this day!


Stan Sayres Memorial Park, Lakewood, Seattle.
Stan Sayres Memorial Park

It's mostly clear and sunny this morning and the fog is lifting over Lake Washington.


Leschi North Moorage, Lake Washington.
Leschi North Moorage

I'm enjoying the views over Lake Washington from the Leschi North Marina with the Bellevue Skyline and Cascade Mountains as a backdrop. 

Old Town, Arlington, WA.

Instagram Class in Old Town, Arlington, WA.

October 1, 2019


I drove up to Arlington this Tuesday morning to teach an Instagram marketing class to local real estate brokers. It was a lovely drive up from Renton. Just north of Everett on Interstate 5 I'm passing by Smith Island.


Looking west from Interstate 5 at Buse Timber just north of Everett,Washington.

We started our class at Moe's Coffee Bar on Olympic Avenue. It's a beautiful October 1st. 

Moe's Coffee Bar on Olympic, Arlington, WA.

We chatted about content creation, hashtags, stories, Google's Snapseed photo editor and a few tips about taking photos with smartphones then hit the streets to explore the shops in downtown Arlington.

Out front of Arlington Velo Sport Bicycle Shop looking south on Olympic Avenue.

We stopped out front of Arlington Velo Sport Bicycle Shop on Olympic Avenue. There are so many wonderful locally owned small businesses here in town.

In front of Arlington Velo Sport Bicycle Shop looking north on Olympic Avenue.

We didn't have time to stop here, but I just loved this inviting scene at Playa Bonita Mexican Restaurant!


Out front of Playa Bonita Mexican Restaurant, Arlington, WA.

I'm talking to the group about the three axioms of hyper-local marketing... location, lifestyle, and community as we're walking down the street to Arlington Hardware taking lots of photos. 

Arlington Hardware Store on Olympic Avenue, Arlington, Washington.

We crossed the street to gather in Legion Memorial Park to chat about marketing strategies, edit our content and posting to Instagram. 

In the parking lot I just had to stop and chat a few minutes with this guy and his beautiful 1955 Ford Thunderbird.

1955 Ford Thunderbird at Legion Memorial Park in Arlington, Washington.

It was my kind of day and a great group of local real estate pros that made for a really fun class. We were so fortunate to have such a perfect early autumn day to play outside in lovely downtown Arlington.

Shout out to Moe's for hosting our get together! Great treats, super friendly crew and a fine cup of coffee! Thank You!!