Ballard's Laura K. Cooper and Duck Captain Jay Craig at embarkation.
At Large in Ballard: Summer of firsts
By Peggy Sturdivant
This is the first summer since when I was pregnant in 1990 that I have been in Seattle for the entire months of July, August and (soon) September. Is it a coincidence this was the firstly completely rain-less July on record since the year of my birth in 1960?
I started to realize how many firsts there have been for me this summer, which in light of a recent mid-century birthday bodes well for what I hope will be my next 40-some years. This is the summer that I spent two weeks in the family cottage with my daughter, pumping along behind her on my east coast $5 garage sale bicycle. We had never been there by ourselves before. I had my first tuna melt sandwich. It was tasty.
This is the first summer that I haven’t just watched my neighbor Mary Lou’s transparent apples fall from her tree with enough force to reach the high part of the alley and then gather the momentum to flash in front of oncoming traffic like bright green meteors. This year I gathered them and made a vat of applesauce and my first applesauce cake.
I added the applesauce cake to a table already full of homemade food: mac ‘n’ cheese, wheat berry salad, bread with real crushed garlic. For the first time since I’ve lived in Seattle I was part of a Night Out for Crime event. It wasn’t the first time that I’ve been part of closing a street for a block party, but my husband might tell you it was the first time I’ve done it legally. He looked concerned when outreach officer James A. Manning pulled his police cruiser by a box I’d used to block traffic.
This summer is the first time I’ve been on the rooftop of Bastille and a marine warehouse by the Ballard Bridge. It’s the first time I’ve picked seven pounds of tomatoes in my backyard before my birthday and tried sautéed pea vines.
This is the summer that I “Rode the Ducks” for the first time ever. I grew up treasuring the Swan Boat rides in Boston Public Gardens, but here I have had a love/hate relationship with the duck boats of Seattle. Who doesn’t dread being stuck next to them while the Fremont Bridge is up or while navigating the ever-narrower lanes on Highway 99?
But Ballard’s own Jay Craig is a captain now. Our man of the Scottish Buddhist Cookbook, the man who threw away his pants to wear kilts and who holds the key to making the Ballard Bell ring (literally). How could I not accompany Laura K. Cooper and Nordic Heritage Museum curator Lizette Graden on an outing with visiting family and with Jay Craig as our duck captain and tour guide?
Just as when I took a floatplane from Lake Union to Victoria that last full summer in Seattle, I realized that one can love the experience itself while still bemoaning the noise of the float planes over Ballard and the cacophony of the quackers on the duck boat tours.
It was thrilling to look down toward the Ballard Bridge from mid-span on the Aurora Bridge. No windows to buffer the wind as we headed toward a launch site at the north end of Lake Union. Although better known for somewhat off-color stories as a Ballard writer, as Captain Braveliver Jay Craig is a trustworthy navigator and knowledgeable raconteur who does Ballard proud. I don’t think he was just playing to his locals. In his tour, Ballard is the center of our universe with interesting bits (Boeing, houseboats, mountains, Pioneer Square) acting as mere spokes from our hub.
This summer has had other firsts: the first summer without either Charlotte-the-Cat or Charlotte Not-the-Cat, though my Queen Charlotte anemone is blooming in both of their honors. But it’s not yet the first time that I finally remember the cat is gone before I start to put my breakfast yogurt bowl down for her to lick.
I didn’t pick raspberries in my neighbor’s yard this summer. But the invasive blackberry vines still bear fruit worth picking and the first Heavenly Blue morning glory has yet to bloom. At my birthday dinner the server at Stoneburner (another first) brought our table dessert wine after dinner, “courtesy of the gentleman you spoke to when you came in.” Thank you Scott and Michelle Simpson of Roosevelt Ale House for remembering customers who haven’t even crossed your threshold in the five years since Martin left Maple Leaf and you were still The Jones Bistro. It was like being in a movie.
This weekend there will be another first, perhaps the biggest one yet. I will step into a new role as Officiant-At-Large when I will be presiding at the wedding of two of my closest friends (and both former Ballard News-Tribune editors). Ever since I was asked to do the honor last fall, it has been the shining thing waiting for me in a summer that has already seemed blinding.
Take heed: the start of a 54th year can be pretty darn great. Especially in a summer filled with so many firsts, from a tuna melt to legally binding my friends in marriage. My Ballard cup quacketh over.
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