Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sight Seeing In Seattle - Part 2 - Back to the future from 1962

Way back when the world still had world's fairs, Seattle decided to host the 1962 World's Fair and made the Space Needle the centerpiece of the fairgrounds.  I was only 8 years old when the fair was underway but I remember the iconic image of the Space Needle from that time.   This year is the 50th anniversary of the Space Needle and in honor of that, the top of the disk was painted the same color as was used 50 years ago.   At the top of the Needle in the observation section souvenirs from the fair featuring the Space Needle were on display. 
In 1964 my family and I attended the New York World's fair and that was an event and an experience I remember to this day.  But, we're talking about the Seattle World's fair and the Space Needle, so here we go!

The best way to get to the Space Needle is on the original monorail that travels about a mile from the station to the needle.  Here is the Grouch expedition on the way to the Needle.
The ultra-modern 50 year old monorail train


The Space Needle!
The glass gardens on the former grounds of the fair

Quite a view from the top!

This reminds me of Sim City
The shadow of the disk.  See some rather large spiders down there?
The Missus enjoys the view

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sight Seeing In Seattle - Part 1 - We Look At Kilts

The Missus, Young Son and I were touring around downtown Seattle when we came across this establishment.  Given our Irish/Scots roots and the chance to see men in kilts we felt compelled to enter the store. 
The young man working in the store was pleasant and wearing a kilt so we know that he walked the walk or in this case, wore the kilt.  I resisted asking what he was wearing under the kilt.  the Utilikilt is a heavy duty work kilt, seemingly stout enough to resist a .303 ball round or the teeth of a charging lion.   I started to see myself in a Utilikilt and thought that the sight would be too frightening so I backed away from the idea of trying one on.  Young son was braver than I and went for it.  Young Son felt that it was the real him but we had to pass on buying one right now.
A Scotsman once said the kilt is excellent for two things, neither of which I can repeat in this blog.
The home of the Utilitkilt, at least its home in Seattle
It is good to know that this store takes safety very seriously!

Young Son looking manly in his Utilikilt.  I can see that this might be the garment for me hiking in the mountains and the desert.  Nice and cool!  I liked the one on the half manikin in the background.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just dukw(y) in Seattle

So on our recent visit to Seattle we availed ourselves of the duck tour.  The Missus has been on duck tours in Boston (twice)  and in Pittsburgh.   For those not in the know, a duck tour is not visiting web footed birds but rather getting a tour on land and water in a DUKW, a WW2 amphibious truck converted to a tourist barge.  One thing that has puzzled me on the duck tours that I have been on is how so many of these things have managed to survive 60 years to still be driving and floating all over the U.S.   Well the mystery was solved for me on the latest trip when it was revealed that newly made DUKWs  (a military identifier) are in production just for duck tours!
So with all that in mind we paid our money and boarded the newly made DUKW for our tour of Seattle by land and sea.

Young Son enjoys the open water via the DUKW
We transition from land to water via a marina boat launching ramp.  No pesky boats on trailers for us!
The Missus piloting an actual WW2 DUKW in Pittsburgh last year

The Missus makes a trifecta by piloting her third DUKW of her career, this time in Seattle

An original WW2 DUKW from Pittsburgh
A newly made DUKW as used in Seattle
Our wild and crazy skipper who succumbed the to Missus' charms and let her steer the DUKW.  She missed that sailboat by at least 10 feet!
The Space Needle as seen from the DUKW


A ship that appears in "The Deadliest Catch" on the Discovery channel.  Some people on the tour thought that this was pretty cool but I've never seen the show.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge and Galloping Gertie

So, to get to Bremerton from Ft. Lewis (another post for another day) we had to use the Tacoma Narrows bridge.  Usually me and bridges don't get along.  Unless I'm in an airplane I just don't like heights and bridges are high!  I used to travel over a bridge in Charleston that pitched up so high to let ships pass under it looked like a roller coaster track!  Fortunately it is gone now, replaced by something more civilized.  I've read that the Mackinac bridge in Michigan is so intimidating that drivers are available to drive your car across while you cover your eyes!  

I wasn't too concerned about the T-N bridge until the Missus reminded me about the previous bridge that spanned the gap, Galloping Gertie.   Yikes!  For those not in the know, peruse this clip:

Fortunately for us the current bridge seems to withstand the elements a lot better than the previous one and we made it across without incident.  I've been on bridges that I can feel bouncing from the traffic, an unsettling thing for this Grouch!

The replacement Tacoma Narrows bridge, a nice civilized ride for the bridgephobic!

U.S.S. Turner Joy

When we arrived in Seattle I was idly reading the 'What to See in Seattle' pamphlets in the hotel lobby when I came across a pamphlet for the U.S.S. Turner Joy which is now a museum ship in Bremerton.  I was shocked and amazed to learn that this historic ship is still afloat and hadn't been scrapped and turned into Toyota fenders years ago.  For those not up on their history, the Turner Joy and the U.S.S. Maddox were two destroyers involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 which paved the way to our full-on participation in the Vietnam war.

The Turner Joy is a Sherman class destroyer and the last of the all gun ships of her type.  Modern destroyers have one 5" gun plus missles.  Because of the 5" guns that her class was armed with, the Turner Joy and other destoyers (Fletcher class of WW2 vintage) provided fire support for our forces ashore.  The Turner Joy fired the last naval round of the war in 1973 prior to the cease fire.  I had a plastic model of the U.S.S. Sherman as a kid and was very familiar with the Sherman class destroyers and the unique bubble topped 5" gun turrets - well, familiar as only a 10 year old assembling plastic models can be!

The ship is in great shape and just about everything except the engineering spaces are open to visitors.  There are plenty of steep ladders to go up and down so this is a ship for the fit and agile!  I spent about an hour and a half seeing it.

Driving into Bremerton, mothballed aircraft carriers are visible from the public road.  The only one that we could see a name on was the Kittyhawk launched in 1956 and laid up in 2009.  Soon to be a reef or razor blades.

The Grouch and the Turner Joy in the background

The bow 5/54" rapid fire gun.

The auto loading mechanism for the 5" guns. 

The captain's cabin when in port.  Heavy responsibility brings some benefits!  I was interested to see that the commander of the ship is an O5, equivalent to an Army LTC who would be a battalion commander.

The Executive Officer's cabin.  a step down but better than the enlisted accommodations!

This is one reason that my corporal father told me that it is better to be an officer than an enlisted man.  Yikes!   My complete and total admiration for those who lived like this for months at a time. 
The CIC or combat information center

View from aft showing the two stern mounted 5" guns.  All three of the guns were used heavily in fire support missions on multiple tours to Vietnam

The Old Man's chair when he was on the bridge
The bridge and the helmsman's station
The Turner Joy looking very ship-shape!

Antique yacht day at Bremerton

The Missus, Young Son and I spent the last 6 days in Seattle seeing the sights in and around town. 

One day the Missus and I journeyed to Bremerton, she to visit a friend  who moved to Bremerton and I went to see the U.S.S. Turner Joy.  The Turner Joy was one of two destroyers involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident at the beginning of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war.  I'll write more about the TJ later. 

When I finished touring the TJ I noticed that there was a gathering of antique yachts in the harbor for visitors to see.  Antique for this group seems to be 1950s or older (that makes me an antique!) and wood hulled.   The boats were beautiful and some of the owners invited me to come on board and take a look around.   Some of the owners rescued their boats from scrapping (or the chain saw as one owner said - they were wood after all).

This is the boat that was fit only for firewood when the current owner took on the project of restoring her.  18 years later here she is!  I got a quick tour of the boat and she was as beautiful inside as out.

The brass work in the cockpit of this boat is incredible!

Another boat saved from a steady decline.  It was used in the 80s TV show "Riptide"

My idea of a cruising boat!

This was originally in Canada and used as a missionary boat.  The present owners live aboard her year-round and the cold and wet winters don't bother them a bit!  She dates from the 20s and is in great shape.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Citizen Grouch recommends: "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"

So, last night the Missus and I rented "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen".  I didn't know the country was called 'The Yemen' I thought it was just 'Yemen'  but those wacky Brits come up with all sorts of funny ways to refer to places.  This is one of those quintessentially English films with eccentric characters in unusual places doing hopeless tasks and making it look fun and easy.  It stars two delightful people, Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt with Kristin Scott Thomas in a great supporting role as the domineering government fix-it lady who can't even get her rebellious teenage son to heed her.    A shiek from Yemen decides he wants to create a salmon fishing stream in his portion of the country where the conditions may be just suitable enough to make it happen.  Ewan McGregor is meek Scottish fish PhD who gets the job of making it happen and Emily Blunt is the young woman who must facilitate the whole enterprise.

We enjoyed the movie and hearing the Scottish accents was an extra bonus.  I felt sad for those who lost out in the romance lottery in the movie but then I guess that is way of things in life or at least in this movie. 

This is a mild mannered movie and moves at a leisurely pace but we enjoyed it and recommend it for your date night viewing.

Another four star movie!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Citizen Grouch recommends: "John Carter"

So, when I was in high school, before cable TV, xBox 360, and the internet, people read books for entertainment.  Well, some read books and some read comic books, but the people I hung out with read books.  The old pulp series books were very popular.  Some favored Tarzan.  Others read Conan.  Doc Savage was popular.  The weird hippies read the Lord of the Rings.  But the most favorite (because I read them) was the John Carter of Mars series.  Sure they were nonsense and the writing was overheated and stilted but they were still a lot of fun to read.

Recently the Princess of Mars was made into a movie, John Carter.  Disney spent a lotta money to make a movie that flopped, with a capital F.  I'm sure executives lost their jobs over it.  Even more recently (like tonight) the Missus and I rented it on pay-per-view (in high def!) to watch it on our super-duper flat screen TV.  I must say we expected little and got a lot.  It was just like the book:  silly nonsense but a lot of fun to watch.  I mean, what was not to like?  It had the hero, an ordinary man given super human abilities once he got to Mars.  It had the native tribe (seeming a lot like the Bedouins in Lawrence of Arabia) who find a champion in John Carter.  It had the fierce native chieftain with the heart of gold and his fiery daughter who becomes John's loyal native guide.  Did I mention the dog thingy creature who is fierce and loyal?  It has fantastic special effects, beautiful art work in the panoramas, a great score and an uncredited appearance of our very own Vasquez Rocks county park, the location for many a movie and TV show.  I almost forgot to mention the princess babe in the metal bikini who is not only beautiful, spunky, a killer swordswoman, a scientist, but gets to say the absolute best line in the movie  "I'm getting away!" followed by the chieftain's disgusted reply to John's optimism in the face of all of their impending horrible and incredibly painful death in the area with the white apes: "Your optimism makes me tired."  I've felt that way when I'm having a particularly rough day.

We really had fun watching the movie and my only regret is not having seen in on the big screen to really appreciate the scope and span of the movie and possibly helping to save the job of the movie exec who went down in flames over this pic.  

I give it 4 out of 4 for supreme silliness done well with a straight face!

Attention "Fringe" fans!

So, Older Son was having a meal in a small taco shop in Boyle Height the other day with a co-worker when she pointed out an actual TV star sitting right behind them.   Since the whole place was about the size of the Grouch family living room according to OS it was pretty easy to pick out Joshua Jackson who plays Peter on Fringe which I really enjoy watching.  OS  not being the shy type approached Mr. Jackson, introduced himself, asked if he was addressing Joshua Jackson who graciously said that he was indeed him.  OS stated that his co-worker was an enormous fan of his (not in size but in fandom sort of enormous) and requested a picture be taken with Joshua and the co-worker.  He readily agreed to do so and Older Son has the picture to prove it.  OS said that Joshua is a really nice and friendly person and seemed very appreciative of the nice comments from his fans.  It is good to find out that the TV person who seems like a nice guy really is a nice guy.

I can't believe he didn't get an autograph for me!