Sep 23, 2012

Going high safe

A 200 feet (61 meter) tall bridge over a streaming skinny river deep down in the gorge. And right next to it a 1400 feet (427 meter) high green covered perfectly cone formed mountain. The river is the east fork of the historic Lewis River in the south of Washington State, and the name of the green cone is Tum Tum Mountain. I mean, is this for real? The mountain looks like a big hand gently pushed the exact amount of soil together to form the thing, and then covered it with leaves and evergreens so tight there is now way you could get through the greenery. After a 3,5 hour drive south from Seattle we have landed right in the middle of a Tolkien saga!

It wasn’t me that gave my sons the nicknames Trouble 1 and Trouble 2, it was their American grandpa Harold back when they were 4 and 6. Although my oldest one has always been an adventurous soul, climbing and jumping before he could walk, a childhood accompanied by a lot of  “no, no” and “watch outs!”. When he grew older he was the magnet for all the like-minded kids in the countryside where they grew up, Trouble 2 tagging along of course. They jumped sandpits, roofs, rocks and trees, most of it shot on video, the starting school for Trouble 2 and his friends, now in the film business. And the physical activity turned into the extreme sport Parkour 8 years ago.

So, it’s not a big surprise that Trouble 1, when in Seattle, is looking for a real good bungee jump. With the amazing nature and sceneries around here, there should be one around. And of course it was. The Pacific Northwest Bridge is a private bridge, sat up in that Tolkien setting just south of Mount St. Helen’s; Amboy, only for the purpose of bungee jumping. And that’s where we headed yesterday.

The people on that bridge yesterday prepared for their jumps in different ways, different emotional state of minds. Some very concentrated, some laughing like crazy, some walking back and forth. Trouble 1 was all-calm, and with that sparkle in his eyes you see only when he is about to do something really dangerous. Well, that’s the mother talking. Being slightly more neutral I would use the word challenging.

And then he jumped. There was no hesitation, and nothing forced about it. Only concentration and expectation. And the eyes sparkling. The first one forward. He raised his arms, made himself as big as possible and then jumped. Taking off like a swan out over the river 200 feet below. The perfect jump. Like he had been preparing all his life for this. Like this was what he always had been doing. And then the next one right on, backwards.

Did I mention this was the highest bungee jump in the US? I don’t think I did. And that there are so many reasons to go back to this place. There is a third jump. Which you are not allowed doing the first time. It’s the jump where you run out of the bridge. The perfect business idea, cause you’ve got to get people to come back of course! And for a young man at 26 to meet a man his mothers age, Casey A. Dale of, who started out as a crazy kid himself and has turned his wild behavior into a successful and safe living for himself and his crew, giving high risk people the opportunity to fulfill their desires in a secure environment.

And then there was this mountain. The perfectly cone formed volcanic dome of 360 acres (145 hectare) with a 360° view. Which was for sale! How crazy is that?! Buy your own little mountain and put a flag on that perfect top!

So, I am asking Trouble 1 what he would do with the mountain. The answer is straight on: He would build a ropeway from the top of the mountain down to the bridge to build on the bungee jump with the perfect pre jump experience! And what en entrance for the highest bungee jump in the US! So, Casey A. Dale of in Amboy, are you up for adding on some more height on your work initiated by a young man who jumped before he walked and still, to be honest, gets quite a few “no nos” and “watch outs”. He just got to see that spreading your wings on a height trusting the landing will be safe can be a life. And that going high can be safe.  

Sep 16, 2012

Wheeling and dealing

And great it was! The Great Wheel of Seattle! I’ve been watching the new ferris wheel down at the waterfront from my Queen Anne window for three weeks now. It makes a round silhouette in front of the two stadium arches and Mount Rainier, and some evenings it fires off in a magnificent light show, stadium arches as a nice backdrop in solids. Isn’t there a way we could light up The Mountain too? Silent choppers circulating with giant spotlights?

Anyway, as Broparken (The Bridge Park) in Umeå is now proving the plans for really coming to life, changing into that rolling flowing green space declining towards the river that we have only scene on sketches before, The Great Wheel on Pier 57 owned by Hal Griffith opened late June being the first evidence that the Seattle Waterfront is changing.

-       I don’t know how that happened, suddenly it was there, it must have slipped under the radar of the Seattle Process! Says Elizabeth.

Trouble 1, our friend Elizabeth and me are having the perfect summer Friday fun evening down at the waterfront slowly spinning on top of the world right in the middle of the skyline, the port and Elliot Bay while the sun is setting behind The Olympic Mountains. It just doesn’t get much better than this!

So, there is The Seattle Process. Exactly the way there is The Umeå Process. My two cities have the very same culture when it comes to decision making and developing. And from where we are sitting in the ferris wheel gondola we have the perfect view over the area that just this week came very close to the end of a process that’s been under the eye for some time now.

To make a very long story as brief as possible: For 41 years Seattle hosted a NBA team, The Super Sonics, residents in what’s now the Key Arena at Seattle Center. The team moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, a loss that basketball fans in The Emerald City are still deeply grieving.

So did Chris Hansen, a Seattle native, now a hedge fund manager-millionaire in San Francisco, who showed up at the Seattle scene proposing a new basketball-hockey-entertainment stadium neighboring the baseball stadium and the football stadium in Sodo (the area SOuth of DOwntown), turning a big part of the Industrial District in to Arena District, also plugged in to the Port of Seattle and shipping terminals.

This is truly a big thing. As much as a lot of people agree on that it sure would be nice being the home of a NBA team again, there is among other things the question about increasing traffic in an already congested area. The Port of Seattle links to 30 000 jobs in the region, and what could be more important than jobs?

So, after months of serious dealing (which is by the way an extremely short time!) a Seattle City Committee Thursday agreed on a plan for a new 490 million arena in Sodo. I will leave the numbers out, but the agreement between the City and private investor Chris Hansen includes a transportation-improvement fund for the area, and another one looking into the needs of the Seattle Center Key Arena. The deal is a unique private/public partnership where the City has worked on financial protections to reduce public risk to a minimum, and Hansen is taking on both an enormous responsibility and huge risk. Final approval is expected September 24. After that Chris Hansen can begin shopping for a NBA team for Seattle.

Well, we all have different wallets for shopping. In our ferris wheel gondola, Trouble 1, our friend Elizabeth and I are agreeing on 15 dollar for a four round magical pleasant sunset spin is definitely worth the money. And Umeå, on my wish list for the more eastern of my two waterfronts in the world there is now not only a heated pool on a barge on the Umeå River and a Light Box for summer night-light concerts, I definitely want to throw in a ferris wheel! It’s just the perfect gentle, non-aggressive fun for everyone in the family to agree on and enjoy. And so beautiful! What can go wrong?!

And, by the way, the wheel didn’t just happen. Hal Griffith, the owner of Pier 57 where the ferris wheel is located, had envisioned this new attraction for 30 years. Three decades was needed for the plan to come to fruition. For the deals to close. For The Wheel to turn.

Sep 9, 2012

A mind-blowing somersault

-       What, what happened, Sweden has always been the land of the dreams?

That’s Matthew speaking, a friend of my friend Doug who turned 60 the other day and gathered his friends for a party. And Matthew and I ended up talking up about school systems, health care a s o. Which is mostly always the case among my friends here in Seattle, but these weeks are of course, extra interesting politically.

So, the feeling is odd I have to say. Watching the next convention. Now from the couch, I am doing a tiny bit better back-wise and have moved out of my bed and landed on the couch just in time for The Democratic National Convention. I love being in the US during political times. I do like being in other places through interesting periods too, although I have to say Northern Ireland has been a little too exciting for me a couple of times.

Anyway. Seattle. Through this summer in Sweden I haven’t mentioned the weather. For a good reason. I didn’t want to whine. Because this summer was the crappiest one in…like forever. We had four days of summer in Umeå. July 6 and August 15, 16,17. That’s it. Arriving in Seattle on this historic stretch of sun and warm temperatures was exactly what I needed, what I hoped for. This Friday we actually hit 90° (32,2 C) which has only happened five times before in September since they started keeping track! So spending the afternoons on my 8th floor balcony overlooking Elliot Bay, the Seattle skyline and The Mountain always out, charging my cold body combined with evenings in front of the broadcasted conventions has been just the perfect mix.

So, why the odd feeling about this week’s convention? Well, if following the Republican Convention was like watching a movie, listening to the speeches at the Democratic Convention felt like… home. Or, should I say, like home used to be, before the Right wing coalition took over the government six years ago.

Now, to be clear: The Right in Sweden is far away from the Right in the US. In fact, over the years I have always expressed the Swedish Right a lot more liberal than the American Democrats. And that’s where the odd feelings show up.

Because listening to the Democrats doesn’t only feel like home. It feels like listening to the Swedish Social Democrats. Sorry Obama, I know it’s only the most super liberal of your followers that would like this comment of mine, but I would say a lot of those speeches at the convention would fit right in to the Swedish Social Democrat’s Convention.

And here is what happened on my couch. Listening, watching, I found myself with the surprising and slightly uncomfortable feeling of “I want that. I want that for Sweden too! Holy cow, was that a somersault of my mind....

So, Matthew, what happened was six years of Right coalition government has turned Sweden into a country where the American Democratic ideals in overall sound like a really good idea. Well, we would skip the God Bless and throw in some Solidarity, but other than that... And it makes me feel extremely sad about Sweden, the land of Matthews dreams. It is two more years until we have the vote and I really do wish that we will have come to our senses by then. And I am hoping that the American Democratic Party gets four more years to prove their ideals right.

Sep 2, 2012

A good old party

It feels like watching a movie. But it’s for real. The Republican National Convention. The Good Old Party. And I am wondering: is it even possible being a Republican if you don’t have a family?

Ann Romney looks like a news anchor and sounds like a politician. Her president to be wife-speech wasn’t even finished until she was appointed a star speaker. On her CV of trials in life is Multiple Sclerosis and breast cancer. She has raised five sons who all look like quarterbacks and presidential material and she has 18 grandchildren, all dressed in the same blue and white-checkered shirt on the humongous family photo. Well, if you are feeling just a tiny bit lonely in life, this might be a cake that’s simply too rich for you.

I am watching this bedridden in my rented apartment on lower Queen Anne in Seattle. I have an out of this world Frazier view overlooking the beautiful Seattle skyline and Mount Rainier to the south. And to the west ferries, fright carriers, cruise ships and sail boats on Elliot Bay. The sun has been out 42 days in one stretch, we might be heading for a record. I could be stuck in worse places so to speak. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been stuck in a better place. Cause I have a history of getting stuck.

My back went out this Wednesday. The slightest bend forward and there it was, the knife right across my lower back. You can’t negotiate with a knife. And my chiropractor out of town. So, flat in bed.

I don’t think I ever feel as vulnerable and lonely as when these things happen. It’s bad when I am in Umeå. Especially in the winter. But it’s even worse when in Seattle. Cause there is always the question: how the hell am I going to get back to Sweden?

When you are in a family there are people coming and going in your house. No matter what the family looks like; happy unhappy, big small, functional, dysfunctional, balanced or annoying, at least there is someone on routine putting the key in the door every day. And at your “hello”, someone would respond. And even if that response wasn’t friendly, someone could bring you a glass of water and fix you something to eat. Let’s put it like this: when you are in some kind of family you won’t be lying dead for a lot of days without someone stumbling over you.

So, how did I survive this time around, all alone with the Seattle skyline? Well, I was very lucky. I was rescued by my next-door neighbors who just moved into the building the other day, Stilian, the new assistant director of the Seattle Symphony, and his pianist wife Anastasia. They cooked dinner for me and we shared a bottle of wine and the view and the full moon. I think it was my best rescue ever. And as they are new in town, we kind of created a temporary family for ourselves and the dramatic day turned into a lovely evening.

Cause that’s the thing. When you cannot expect a key in your door you have to come up with creative solutions. And you actually need to ask strangers for help. Which to me has been a very hard thing to learn. But doing that might bring you unexpected meetings and experiences that won’t happen when you are sheltered in a family, whatever that family is. I am looking at the Romney family with their Disney smiles and checkered shirts. You can be very lonely even within a family. But being exposed and vulnerable, as a lot of Americans are, and not having access to some kind of family is truly a very hard place to be in.

Which brings me back to the question: Is it possible being a republican if you don’t have a family? The good old party of a family. I am looking at all those people at the Convention, nodding and waving their flags and I am thinking: I don’t think so. I think it must be way to painful.