…or sleepless nights in Baltimore waking up to Walter’s asthma every night? #mood
GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK
I experienced a moment something like out of Sleepless in Seattle the other night, yet, in another dimension. While stuck in traffic on Alaska Way in the midst of a cold rain falling down and in an effort to thwart christmas music for as long as possible, I decided to tune into AM radio. I was expecting the latest fuss on who would be appointed Secretary of State. Oh, how you journalists keep me in suspense. I would stay awake just to hear you breathing, I don’t want to miss a–wait, sorry, I dont know why I was thinking of Aerosmith just now! Anyways, the first station that I turned to was Todd Herman, host of his own Conservative Radio Talk Show. The only blacksheep of his kind in the King County area (shocking), it was refreshing to find somebody with the same common ground as myself . I tuned in right as he was in the midst of driving home on a point which quickly grabbed my attention. “Seattle doesn’t want you here” (Todd, no, don’t say that! I just moved back a couple months ago–I love this place! I grew up here!), he went on to say “Over 30% of the latest condos built do not include parking garages–why fight it? This is becoming a no-car zone and Seattle only wants to attract those people that work downtown and rarely have to leave downtown–they want to keep you downtown!” (ok, what is this The Truman Show now?). Also, define moving outside the city, Todd–are we talking Spokane, now? Since real estate is only climbing, I guess I’ll have to move out to the sticks and take roadtrips in. I might as well download Farmers Only app, too, since that will be my best hope at finding a husband.
The 1992 Sleepless in Seattle narrative would look different today: industry attraction from the outside world is more at play than an elusive bicoastal romance. That is why it is no surprise that a recent census confirmed just 40% of the population in King County is Washington-born locals. A lot of them have had to move out in order to raise a family–or just be able to sleep at night without thinking about money. I would move out, too, if I didn’t equate living in the suburbs to that of my favorite 70’s movie The Wilderness Family. Literally, moving out of the city would spell social death for a single person. I probably would adopt a racoon and have a salt lick outside in my backyard (urban translation: National Park) for the deer–or Sasquatch if that’s his thing. Bottom line, more outsiders are being recruited or just naturally pulled to this emerald metropolis–and hopefully you are all Ubering in because there is no room for your car.
My favorite commercial MyPillow creator Michal Lindell can’t even cure this newfound sleeplessness. If you have not seen this 10minute commercial over 100x like me (before you remembered there was a mute button on your channel changer), I will paraphrase it right here: for the best night sleep in the whole world just visit mypillow.com. Being “sleepless in Seattle” today is to the effect of having a Redbull Vodka that you and your friends drink together at a party (who ever drinks this solo, anyway?). It’s the euphoric feeling most have for this exciting landscape of diverse innovative culture and economics–followed by unsettledness. The daunting repercussions of rising housing costs and the threat that poses on certain industries and locals who have been here for generations is cause for a little insomnia.
A picture I took in Ballard the other day. If you can’t say amen, gotta say ouch.
“THE FREEZE” IS ON FIRE
Sleepless is more than just a tacky 90s tale between two people living on opposite sides of the country: it has become a forerunner of impact in the entertainment world and population growth we see in Seattle today. White-collar sitcoms like Frasier in the ’90s fed her corporate appeal and ongoing mystery–Maris, could you have just made one appearance to us viewers? Deadliest Catch (2005-present) put her already badass maritime industry she shares with Alaska in the limelight and provided transparency to outsiders on the perils of working in the seafood industry–besides the rare occasion of getting smacked in the face at Pike Place as those guys throw salmon over crowds of tourists. And thank you E.L. James for choosing Seattle to be the setting for your “50 Shades of Gray” trilogy. I refuse to see it but, hey, if a decadent flipside to this depressive weather serves as a mood booster (Seattlites, this doesn’t mean you can skimp on your Vitamin D supplements, now!) that’s a plus in some respect. The burgoeing success of the Seahawks and their fandom’s over inflation of the # “12” has been incorporated into just about every type of industry’s marketing strategy as they ride off their football team’s success. Seattle-bred companies like Nordstrom (Est. 1901), REI (Est. 1938), Starbucks (Est. 1971), and others were just humble giants in the making before the internet age revealed what the Emerald was really worth through their combined shareholder value. It’s a restless city of opportunity and wealth that is now running as fast as high-speed internet.
Speaking of computers, Seattle has been incubating a business tech boom since Bill Gates decided to skip classes at Harvard to work on his then-extra curricular hobby now called Microsoft, cementing headquarters in Redmond 30 years ago. Smart choice, Bill, since even computers back then were so big they practically took up half a parking space–you knew Seattle metro space wouldn’t cut it down the road. Software aside, hardware infrustructure projects also have been brewing: with the implementation of the underground tunnel replacing the signature Alaska Way, soon, residents in those buildings will actually get the view they have been paying for this whole time. Also, in the works is the $50 billion dollar Sound Transit proposal–that’s cool, as long as (heaven forbid) it doesn’t get in the way of the biker’s lane. The city is sleepless in more ways than one–and the maritime industry where I hail from is one to talk about. Unlike some of the other industries, I think we are being kept up at night not by the excitement of where we are going but moreso the anxiety of our future as sustainable fisheries fight to stay alive–in both economic and cultural realms.
Todd touched on this point during his talk show when he brought on Chris Phillips, editor in Chief of Fisherman’s News. What ensued was a beautiful, yet meloncholic, conversation that left me longing for a city only seen in my rear view mirror. Unlike the Sonics, Maritime can not be traded away or forgotten–too many of the other businesses are interwoven into the fabric of commercial seafood and my family could not be any more a part of its source. No big company or individual (hello, Howard Schultz) can lay hands on an industry that transcends all other industries it came before. We shoot three pointers into Seattle all the way from the other end of the court—Alaska, America’s seafood bread basket. The record breaking seasons prove that Alaska’s management practices work and remains to this day the global model for sustainable fisheries management. Our awesome commercial fishing industry produces over $4.6B wholesale value worth of healthy Wild Alaska Seafood and is the highest employer in the State. (1) How does this benefit Seattle? Without the fancy restaurants serving up king salmon and king crab to the locals and tourists, valet boys would be without a job (don’t ask, its a residual effect). For years, from the dawn of this city, it has been a haven for building, repairing and hibernating between fishing seasons in Alaska and we must preserve this culture in the wake of so many building projects.
SEATTLE IS THE CLUBHOUSE, ALASKA IS THE FIELD
I like big boats and I can not lie, you other boaters can’t deny, when a hull pulls in leaving no itty bitty wake and a wide beam in your face you get sprung
It’s hard to talk about Seattle without talking about fishing. I left my family’s commercial fishing operation when I was 21 in order to pursue other things but the memories of growing up around fishermen resonate with me. I think the motto “friends don’t let friends eat farm salmon” is engrained in ALL children of fishermen from the time they can form their first sentence. Sadly, while observing so much over the years, I feel like we as a society have slowly sold out to the establishments in the name of more convenience and less cost. Sustainable fisheries in Washington and Alaska coastlines lead to greater economic impact on keeping jobs intact while creating new ones in our statehood. As long as Seattle can keep the dialogue alive, they will understand why farmed fishing can never come close in economic stature to that of wild seafood. Thus, Seattle will protect and preserve the industry more while vouching for the livelihoods of these fishermen.
Although my dad’s $300,000 permit is only valid in Chigink district, one of several in Alaska, it is one of the most expensive because of the type of fish caught there. Let me just say (for a Barstool Sports guy reading this) that if Chignik district were the Boston Red Sox that would put Bristol Bay district as their AAA affiliate team. In a way, fishing fleets make up for the lack of national sports teams in Alaska–just the spectrum of smack talk and heroic stories you hear sound like a league of their own. Conversations like “he made three homeruns and stole two bases!” could be translated to “I cut this guy off half a mile up the channel and stole his fish!” I could go on all day but my PG version wouldn’t do the stories justice. Fisherman are the jocks and their various fleets in different regions are the teams. Just like the MLB, fishermen have their Spring training which consists of scrambling their teammates together–a combination of senior crew members and greenhorns (which you can imagine is a reality show on deck) and getting their gear prepped before the season opener kicks off, mainly from June-September.
Fishing life: my sister and I used to build makeshift rafts and they bombed pretty quickly–or should I say, sunk.
My dad and I | Homer, Alaska 2014
TWO DEGREES OF SEPARATION
(welcome to the commercial fishing industry)
I will say as a corollary to the discussion above, it is also really hard to talk about fishing without talking about Seattle. The economic realm of fishing in Alaska is just as important as its cultural impact to Seattle: It is woven in to the fabric of my life and so many other people’s.
Over the first decade of my life, when not in Alaska, I was growing up in quiet suburbia Mukilteo but made frequent visits into the city. In our city expeditions I would be hanging out with my mom underneath a Gene Juarez salon chair as she would get her hair highlighted and on another day I would play in the bouys down at Fisherman’s Terminal where my dad worked on repairs during the winters. From perfume and hairspray to desiel engine fuel and salty nets–that was the balance of life I knew. As a little girl, I loved the refined yet still-rugged appeal of this city that was still revealing itself through my little eyes on the horizon of my three feet in stature.
“Gene, I taught myself how to draw underneath one of your chairs!” Not too often I get to accompany a humble legend like this: in 1971, right around the time a little known coffee shop called Starbucks opened its first doors, there was a man right up the street who just opened the doors of his first hair salon. Over 45 years later Gene Juarez salons and academies remain thriving and a household name in Seattle and the rest of the Pacific Northwest! This was at Lady 12s X Seattle Seahawks fashion show August 2016.
Life as a yacht stewardess brought me back to the PNW last summer and it was not long before I realized how small the world I grew up in really was. While showcasing an 82′ LeClerq-Heisley yacht at the Seattle Boats Afloat Show I striked up a conversation with the owner who just so happened to be the builder, too–Mr. Sam Leclerq! This is what happened next..
Me: “I don’t know if you are aware of this but in Alaska there is a whole fleet of commercial fishing boats with your name on it–pretty sure my dad had a Le Clerq!”
Sam: “What’s his name?”
Sam threw his head back like he was drawing on 3 decades of history!
Sam: (chuckling) Oh my… I know your dad–I built two of his boats! ( F/V SusanGale 1988 and F/V Sierra Gale 1990)
Me: Oh so you must know about his record-breaking herring set in Togiak in 1988?
Sam: I have the picture framed in my house!
Story has it, according to Sam, the Susan Gale boat was brand new and paint was hardly dry when she was put in the water because my dad was in a rush to catch the herring run in Alaska that Spring of ’88. Sam was trying to get his full paycheck for the boat before my dad set off fishing but reluctantly let him go early so he could race up there from Seattle.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE FISHERMEN GONE
If it were not for Sam who knows if my dad would have ever made that set–and I would not have written a story about the famous photograph 28 years later, thus, connecting with him through it. He built over 120 seiners just in the Chignik fishing fleet alone–pretty much the whole fleet we have today. Men are still fishing up there–some in their 70s. My dad is pushing 60 and he is still just as eager to set out his net every season like it was the first time he ever went fishing. I hope there is a new generation of men cropping up that are as passionate as my dad. With fishing it has to be that missing peice of a guy’s heart he wasn’t born with until he discovers it and gets, quite literally, hooked. These guys form the heartbeat of the maritime industry–boats run on diesel and dreams, what can I say.
I know alot of my liberal friends are freaking out right now under the anticipation of a Trump presidency—have no fear, I have just the spot for you! Our little lttle cozy home in Chignik, Alaska, population 62 on a good day, will keep you sane (or not). Potholes a’plenty and bears at your back, it’s a great place to escape to (especially in winter time when the pipes freeze up and you have no running water. If my parents ever decide to list it on AirBnB, that will be our description.
Today, however, there is a shift in the way Seattle views its maritime industry: as white collared jobs are taking over the city, the blue collared maritime industry has been pushed aside to make way for more infrustructure projects. A melting pot of super smart people recruited from all over to world to work in tech. Its great but don’t ask them to come over to Fisherman’s terminal. Passed down from father to son or other relatives: this is very much a generational industry which makes it stand out among the rest. Scandanavian blood runs through it–and I’m talking my great great grandfather, here! Also, are the likes of these seafood moguls who I had the pleasure of meeting a few months back.
When you have been so removed from the scene you begin to reflect on how it shaped you. There is no doubt in my mind that fishing shaped my work ethic and the ties that bind me to Seattle. I even created a large collage piece as a tribute to my roots and to all who currently serve in the industry.
National Fisherman was the first magazine I could see when I was old enough to peer over my family’s coffee table. Meanwhile, the Pacific Marine Expo was like annual date night for my parents–for which my dad came home $100 richer when he won their signature blind-folded knot contest and Fisherman of Year Award in 1999. With the 2017 Annual SeaWeb Seafood Summit being held in Seattle this time (other host cities in the past included Hong Kong and Paris!) it is no better time to create this type of awareness about the seafood industry–and it is really neat I can do it with this massive visual. Growing up in this environment has made me who I am as an artist and a person. I wouldn’t trade the world for the life lessons, grueling hard work and humbling experiences of working on a commercial fishing boat since the age of 9. Though I have retired from the inner scene, I hope to continue giving back to it through my art creations wherever they take me next!
If you read this far, congratulations. Who knew some blogger’s version of Sleepless in Seattle could produce more sap than Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree? Sorry, my fault–also known as my life. Now, wrapping up this monologue….
’nuff said, Jonah. I think everbody knew Seattle in a different life and they are all moving here to seek out the peice that has been missing
I have had a lot of time for reflection since I turn 30 years old next year. Seattle and I have so much history that no matter how much she changes I will not hold back from being real with the city I love–in praise of her many accomplishments or calling out anyone that subverts the pure nostalgia that made her great from the beginning. For instance, the other day I saw three girls in the bathroom of an upscale restaurant and they all had the SAME nose job--I thought Seattle girls only carried plastic in their wallets not in their face. It felt like I was in Miami or Los Angeles for a moment. Things have changed, that is a fact. Anyways, my story Seattle Under the Knife is for another time. Pour me a metaphor of that Redbull Vodka and let’s stay up late together, gaze up at the stars like Sam and Annie wondering what next year’s mortgage rates will be.
It’s clear the “dead end” signs are being swapped out for “construction zone” ones, because their seems to be no end in site–and I can relate. That is, afterall, how I made it through my 20s. Most often our paths in life are not clear or just blocked all together–we have to boldoze and drudge our way through. Just like cities, one doesn’t follow their destiny, they have to construct it–and Seattle will keep doing just that whether we are sleeping or not.