life in belltown


My neighborhood: I sit in front of the coffee house, Bedlam, and listen to the mariachis across the street at Mama's. Or sit in Mama's and request Guantanamera, the lovely rendition of which brings tears to my eyes, although it doesn't have the meaning I thought it did; or watch the Lullaby Moon costumed players go by, happy followers and balloon-tied children in tow. Sit and watch the people animating the sidewalks, and yes, sometimes the local eccentric behaving oddly, or the roaming gang member staking out a drug turf. That incredibly old wood frame building that houses the Funky Belltown Studios, like something out of a Popeye cartoon, leaning at all angles with crazy attitude but still defying gravity atop the Noodle Ranch, Lava Lounge and Juju, has a spacious terrace over the street with young hopefuls who look happy to be there, watching the street life.


Occasionally someone puts to use the sidewalk chalk at Bedlam, or artists put together a CreateLive session inside. Or a guy with a dream and a passion buys the historic Lorraine Hotel and gives artists a free hand in every room, before opening it first to the public and then as a hostel. The slow-paced demolition of the Recovery Cafe provides weeks of entertainment. A new business, bar and pool tables, opens and someone is promptly shot. There is so much flux in the neighborhood, a symptom of a gritty vitality, a synergistic vortex of creative impulse with which destruction goes hand in hand.

The neighborhood grows in popularity. New businesses come in, business rents rise, some are displaced. Spa Noir moves down the street. The Dog Lounge moves out; Wags moves one alley east. The life of the street and sidewalk is so very appealing. When the weather is fine, I sit by the front door of Mama's and watch all the people come in, one after the other, all wanting a seat outside. They sit and wait for someone else to leave. Via Tribunali, who I so admired for having an alley-only entrance, breaks down the street wall and installs a roll-down door. People get air and view of the street, but entry is still off the alley, along with the relocated Wags. The rear common space of Funky Belltown Studios is here. The Regrade dog park is at the end of this alley, where Mama's also seems to be expanding, and I have great hopes for it, the alley and the neighborhood. I also worry about it, the chances of the booming creativity increasing the possibility of destruction. What if Funky Belltown finally concedes to gravity? Could all of these small old buildings, cheap studios, and attractive, vital businesses be displaced by a shiny new building with chain stores at the base?

We can only act as if what we love will remain. I talk to the wonderful and personable host at Mama's and ask about the past. Will the Angel of Belltown be replaced on the roof? What happened to the animated heart that was on the wall outside? Did you know the Virgin Mary got knocked over and is gone again? I chat with the guys at Bedlam - where did you get your old photos of the 2nd Avenue streetcar? How is the petition to preserve the Belltown Needle going? Ben has gotten its creator to reproduce the saucer for the top, which has not returned yet and is missed.

 DSC_0114 DSC_0115

Jesse and others write about Belltown businesses and events and things we should be aware of or even act on as citizens. Igor of Hideous Belltown keeps a visual record and history of the neighborhood, with cynical commentary that I can't help but find oh so amusing. And there are so many choices to make. The Garden Tour (and yes our high-rise condos and apartment buildings have some amazing gardens, practically the Hanging Gardens of Belltown)? Or CreateLive at Bedlam? Music and baptism at Myrtle Edwards? The Great Urban Race? Any number of foodie events? All going on within hours of each other. I know better than to try to do it all, but it's fun to catch the bits and pieces of it, to participate a little, just to watch people and the different things they do. They don't all live here, but they help create the life of the neighborhood that makes it such a great place to be.

IMG_0085            IMG_0087  Belltown: Bikes and Dining  DSC_0076-1

Leave a comment

Recent Entries

Invisible Cities: The city of memory
In the city, sometimes it's hard to remember what was there before what's there now existed. It may have been…
On design in the context of history
Contrast and balance of past and presentCompressive stone, tensile steelSteady past containing (in part)The springing moment of nowHistory and its…
The Weight of History
I was dismayed to read that this building in London was to be demolished as part of the rebuild of…