Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of home & place

Posts tagged ‘My Seattle’

My Seattle: Bruce & Brandon Lee, father & son

Honouring the surname

In the mid- to late-1970s, our parents took us to single-screen movie theatres with names like Olympia, Golden Harvest, and Shaw for cinema night to watch movies made in Hong Kong. There were dramas; some high on the melodrama and low on character. Some were historic-period pieces, and there were kung-fu movies for which Dad passed his love to me.

There’s nothing quite like seeing a kung-fu action sequence on a big screen. I was mesmerized the first time I laid eyes on a memorable fight scene set in Rome’s Colosseum, that epic scene observed by little stone dragons between “Little Dragon” himself, Bruce Lee, and Chuck Norris’ character in the 1972 film “The Way of the Dragon“. As a kid, I was proud to have had the same surname as this Bruce fellow, and memories of seeing his on-screen characters prevailing in fights have stuck over time (e.g., “Boards don’t hit back.”)

Tragically, Bruce and his son, Brandon, died too young. I’m certain when I was a teen that I asked where Bruce Lee was buried; my parents didn’t know and in pre-internet days, it was more of a challenge to find those answers. But the mystery has long been solved: Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon, lay side by side in Lake View Cemetery in Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

Despite multiple visits to the city in years past, this particular return trip to Seattle has been decades in the making for a chance to honour a part of my childhood and a part of my heritage. When I find the Lees, my arrival means another answer has been quietly realized. On a crisp bright autumn morning under blue skies, I feel my father’s spirit with me; he never had the chance to come to this cemetery. My lips move without voice, a prayer I utter into the ether, pushing for hope to reach him. Because I know now that this, is also for my Dad.


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My Seattle: murals in West Seattle

Above/featured: Facing east at The Junction: SW Alaska Street at California Avenue SW. At left (northeast corner) is the red-brick Campbell Building from 1911, oldest in the neighbourhood and a designated City of Seattle historic landmark since 2017.

What: Paintings depicting the history of West Seattle.
Where: In and around West Seattle’s The Junction.
Why: Arts project with community and pride.

Technically, West Seattle is an area consisting of several neighbourhoods within the city of Seattle. Historically, West Seattle feels separate, a peninsula separated from the centre by the flow of water and peoples along the Duwamish river valley. West Seattle had incorporated as its own city in 1902, before agreeing to annexation by Seattle in 1907.

One key to West Seattle is “The Junction”: an intersection of 2 former streetcar lines “West Seattle” and “Fauntleroy”. As expected, commercial activity took root at the intersection and although streetcars have vanished, the nickname has remained as a simple useful designation.

A product of West Seattle, retired businessman Earl Cruzen (1920-2017) launched a local arts and community project in the late-1980s, inspired after visiting other towns in Washington as well as Chemainus on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Cruzen promoted the project with support among residents and business owners, generated fundraising efforts, and brought American and Canadian artists into the city to paint wall murals to highlight the history of people along the Duwamish river and the history of West Seattle. A total of 11 murals were painted, dedicated, and unveiled between 1989 and 1993.

Over time, the murals deteriorated and faded without touchup or maintenance. Members of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society engaged the community in 2018 with questions about the murals, and about raising money to support revitalizing the murals. In May 2018, Adah Cruzen honoured her late-husband with a gift of 100-thousand dollars to the West Seattle Junction Association to boost the restoration process.

So, what do the murals mean to the people of West Seattle?


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My Seattle: London Bridge Studio (Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog)

Pilgrimage is a noun, defined as “a journey to a place of particular interest or significance.”

There are three things you need to know about a personal music pilgrimage.

One, the music that’s stayed with me came about because I was tuned to `70s radio; I learned I liked the sonic combination of guitars and drums.

Two, on a recent visit to Seattle, I decided to spend the morning in a recording studio outside the city.

Three, at the studio’s location, little outside suggests some important music history was made here.

The two-storey building looks like a cross between a warehouse and ordinary office space. The surroundings include a small commercial complex and a storage-unit facility. Within a quarter-mile, there’s a gas station, some fast-food joints, and a shopping mall. This is the modest setting where London Bridge Studio resides in the city of Shoreline, WA, about 14 km north of downtown Seattle.

It’s unassuming and it’s also important to note how out of the way this location is from other popular places to visit. To visit this place of living music history, you’ll have to make a little more effort.

I’m more than curious, but there’s music that’s meant a great deal and stayed with me over the decades. Recorded in this studio are two important albums on personal playlist and timeline: Temple of the Dog’s 1991 self-titled album as tribute to Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood; and “Ten”, Pearl Jam’s 1991 debut album. Much of the credit goes to Rakesh “Rick” Parashar: born and raised in Seattle, first owner and co-founder of the studio, and producer for “Ten” and “Temple of the Dog”.


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My Seattle: the 1st Starbucks, 1971-1976

Above/featured: Exhibition “Edible City: A Delicious Journey” at MOHAI – Seattle, 8 Jan 2017 (6D1).

What: 1st Starbucks, at Virginia/Western in the Rhode Island building.
Where: A restaurant now; no historical plaque or sign, though.
Why: 1st location between 1971 to 1976, as an historical exercise.

Many write about and refer to the “original Starbucks” location in downtown Seattle. If they’re referring to the present location in Pike Place, that Starbucks outlet while oldest is not the original.

So, what happened to Starbucks’ very first location from 1971 to 1976?


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My Seattle: living elements of the city’s black history

Oh Seattle: how is your black history defined?

With the city’s proximity to Vancouver, my time in or any understanding of Seattle was incomplete without an examination of the city’s non-white communities. I had questions about the black community and in particular why the city remains racially segregated. People of color, including black people, were once forbidden from buying houses in specific neighbourhoods because of their skin colour. The Central District (CD) thrived as a black community in the 2nd-half of the 20th-century, but now, citizens struggle with gentrification, displacement, and economic racism. There’s much more I need to ask and learn, but for now, I describe below a selection of landmarks highlighting contributions by and the historical impact of the black community to city and nation.


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