It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a month since the Ghosts of Seattle Past team threw an Irish Wake for Lost Seattle Places. It was a six-hour St. Patrick’s Day MARATHON, and the staff here at Chin Music Press are writing a communal blog post about it because one perspective just wasn’t enough.
It started in the early evening. After a sweltering Seattle day, people started piling into LoveCityLove in Capitol Hill. If you’ve heard about LoveCityLove, you know what an appropriate venue they were for this event. This nonprofit collective moves into defunct spaces (like an old Azteca restaurant or, in this iteration, an old dry cleaner’s) and creates art venues. They launch open mics, conceptual art shows, and much more. The way they nest the vital beating heart of creativity in the interstices of development pushed this event to a whole other level of resonance.
As the night began, people filtered in with the sunlight and the walls took center stage. Joshua Powell had installed one of his hand-drawn maps to display some of the pins so far on our digital archive of lost Seattle places. Alice Wheeler displayed photographs of bygone queer spaces and Mita Mahato hung a cut paper essay in four panels about Lucky Dragon Tattoo. Shelly Leavens’s portrayal of the old MOHAI building showed an ink-and-watercolor structure carried off by a balloon-cloud of crowdsourced words and memories on twine. The string and words even wrapped around a corner to bring the work into three dimensions. The walls were truly overflowing with art made to commemorate fallen Seattle haunts.
And then the madness began. Samantha Updegrave read from the anthology’s foreword about watching the Pike/Pine corridor develop around her and her growing son. Tamiko Nimura read about the beloved David Ishii Bookseller store, and her story about encountering the “Notice to all persons of Japanese ancestry” framed in the stairwell gave us chills. Halfway Haus, a quartet of drag queens, gave an all-out performance that was as indicting as it was entertaining. One of them lip-synced to Starship’s “We Built This City” wearing a John Criscitello T-shirt that said “WE CAME HERE TO GET AWAY FROM YOU.” The layers of camp, genuine rage, spatial metaphor, and literal political statement were many, especially since, I repeat: this event was in the heart of Capitol Hill.
There were several intermissions, and waves of people came and left. Ghosts’ curator Jaimee Garbacik gave a rousing speech, angry and passionate and eloquent as hell. She spoke about the plurality of Seattles and why it’s so important to preserve our memories—it does make a real difference. She also warned against losing our context, how that’s when the worst parts of history can repeat themselves. I was left thinking about how our feelings are worthwhile, and that loving a place over time reminds us of who we are.
The evening was a pretty eclectic mix. On top of readings, art, and performances, we had presentations like Robert Zverina’s. He talked us through some of the changes to Fremont over the past few decades. Teased out with maps and photographs, he walked the crowd through how the semi-industrial area went from warehouses for artists to lofts for tech giants, and Steve Anderson’s house—lovingly dubbed the Monkeyhut—went from a welcoming culture and electricity hub for those living off the grid to an empty lot.
The audience went wild for the short films Ghosts’ contributors had made in collaboration with Northwest Film Forum’s Citizen Minutes campaign, and seemed both amused and stricken by Eroyn Franklin’s live dramatization of her panoramic comic, The Here. The readings just kept coming—18 by the night’s end!—including offbeat city historian Jeff Stevens, beloved local poet Sarah Galvin, and celebrated author Allison Green. We heard a tear-jerking story from Erin Gilbert about the Kalakala ferry, Adrian Ryan’s hilarious send-up of the lost gay dive bar The Elite, and Graham Isaac’s thought-provoking consideration of the Paradox Theater and its relationship to the Mars Hill church.
Perhaps the high point of the night was Dave Holden, Seattle jazz legend (and son of Seattle’s jazz patriarch Oscar Holden) performed “Seattle on the Puget Sound” and a number of other energetic songs. His performance transported the bustling audience to bygone times of Seattle nightlife. Following that, an epic reunion of punk band Android Hero left the audience in awe. With music legends retaking the stage we were reminded of the void that would exist without spaces to accommodate them.
So many powerful voices were heard, maps were left flush with new locations to commemorate, and we walked away with our heads full of conversation about the past and future of our city’s places. The night was a righteous and tearful celebration of a project so close to Seattle’s heart.
A big thank you to the following sponsors: Chin Music Press, STACKEDD Magazine, Fremont Brewing Co, LoveCityLove for renting us their incredible space, Sequoia O’Connell for stage managing, Hailstorm and 206Zulu for security, Ryan Rood on audio, and of course all of our contributing artists, readers, musicians, and performers. We’re looking forward to making a beautiful anthology that puts to paper the passion of this Irish Wake to remember!
(Guest Bloggers: Maddy Burton and Cali Kopczick)