Tag Archives: Seattle

Remember, Episode 8 – Elmer Dixon: All Power to the People

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party. I recently interviewed Elmer Dixon, one of the founding members of the Seattle Panthers, about the party’s work in the community and as a community — and about how his experience as a Black Panther continues to inform his life today. I hope you enjoy our conversation, and if you’re in Seattle, I hope you attend one (or more) of the many commemorative events happening this week.

All power to the people!

Remember, Episode 4 – Estela Ortega: Housing by the People, for the People

Happy holiday, everyone! As I’ve mentioned many times, Martin Luther King Day is my absolute favorite holiday, because it’s all about celebrating justice and equality and community. So today is the perfect day for me to share my interview with Estela Ortega, a woman who has spent her life fighting for justice and building community. Estela is the executive director of El Centro de la Raza (“the center for people of all races”), a revered institution that has been serving the Latinx community — and many others — in Seattle for over 45 years.

There are many things I could have talked to Estela about, but the focus of this interview was El Centro’s recent success building affordable housing — across the street from a light rail station — in a city that is rapidly becoming the exclusive domain of the rich. Without access to housing, there can be no community. And, in the absence of a government response our city’s housing crisis, we will need more organizations to learn from El Centro’s example and extend their service to the community by providing quality, affordable homes in every neighborhood.


To learn more about El Centro’s founding, listen to Episode 2 of Remember, my interview with Larry Gossett.

Summer of parks

Discovery Park
One of the key reasons our family has been able to make the car-free life work is that we stay local. By that I mean, the places we go regularly—school, work, church, grocery store, doctor, library, community center—are a walk or short bus ride away. (If we had to deal with long commutes, transfers, and crosstown kid-schlepping on a regular basis, I would have long since lost my mind.) But the fact that we keep our lives local does not mean that we never get around.

Au contraire.

We do our getting around when it counts: on adventures!

Seattle is a city of great parks, and this summer, we took full advantage of these fantastic public resources. Here’s a taste of some of the non-neighborhood* parks we visited in July and August–either to meet up with family and friends, or just because we felt like it. (Bold means we visited more than once.)

Ballard Commons Park: 27 + 40
Cal Anderson Park: 8

Carkeek Park: Zipcar (We had one for our annual pilgrimage to The Mountain and decided to make it a two-fer.)






Coulon Park: 48 + Link + 560
We made it!






Discovery Park: 27 + 33**
Taking the trail to Daybreak Star








Hiawatha Playfield: 27 + Water Taxi + 775 (aka Water Taxi shuttle)
Heading to Hiawatha






Jefferson Park: 27 + 36






Lincoln Park: 27 + Rapid Ride C
Waiting for wading at Lincoln Park






Madison Park: 48 + 11
Madison Park w/ lifelong friends






Madrona Park: 8 + 2 or 27 + walk (On nice days, when we had time, we walked the entire way–and back–using our secret path through the woods as a shortcut.)
The Mountain from Madrona Park






Rainier Beach Community Center/Pool: 8
Baby birthday/pool party






Seacrest Park: 27 + Water Taxi
Godsiblings at Seacrest






Come September, as the obligations of the school year take over, our adventures become less frequent. (Of course we do have a visit to the gigantic park known as the Puyallup Fairgrounds to look forward to later this month.) By the time winter rolls around, and the weather saps our motivation, they are rare.

I am so grateful for the summer of memories we have created.


* We also frequented many nearby parks, including: Powell Barnett, Pratt, Flo Ware, Peppi’s, Spruce, Judkins, and Leschi.
** These days, the 27 turns into the 33 (it used to turn into the 17, and before that it was the 25), so we didn’t even have to transfer.

A memorial for Memorial Day (repost)

I originally posted this in May of 2010, but it’s been on my mind lately, for a number of reasons. Wishing peace and comfort to all who have lost loved ones to violence, including (and especially) the violence of war.

On a recent Wednesday, I got to talking with the man in line in front of me at the grocery store. He was an older man, probably a good decade older than my father, and he showed a lot of interest in Busling. His eyes lingered long after the initial “Look at the baby!”, and he asked lots of questions–the kind asked by people who are missing the days when their own were still tiny. So, to keep the conversation from being completely one-sided, I asked the man if he had children.

“Yes, two grandchildren,” he said, “a boy and a girl.” He paused a moment, then added, “My son was murdered on a Metro bus in 1987.”

He told me a few of the details–that it was a robbery, that his son had been counting his recently cashed paycheck in the back and then had refused to surrender the money to the gunman who demanded it. That it was the first ever murder on a Metro bus.

We talked a bit longer–about his grandchildren (who live in Portland but visit him often), and about how he wished his son had used better judgment on that April afternoon 23 years ago–and then went our separate ways.

Our encounter didn’t last longer than five minutes, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. About all the hours and days and years that kind man had spent loving his child, watching him learn to smile and laugh and roll over and crawl; discovering his preferences, his quirks, his weaknesses, his gifts; attending games and graduations; giving advice about important tests and first dates.

I felt compelled to honor his loss by learning all I could about his son–not about the way he was killed, but about who he was, what he cared about, and who would miss him. Here’s what I know:

His name was Larry Curtis Walker. He was 30 when he was killed, an employee at The Plush Pippin at Southcenter. According to his boss, David Jensen, he was wonderful to work with.

“Larry sparkled with integrity and loyalty,” he said in a PI interview a couple of weeks after the murder. “[He was] the best employee I’ve ever had.”

Larry left behind two children, a son and a daughter. His son was six when he died. His daughter, from what I could gather, was younger. Many people knew and cared about Larry, including parents, students, and staff at his son’s school. They started a memorial fund (administered by David Jensen) for his children.

And he had a father who loved him dearly.

A perfect bus storm

This is how my fiance, Adam, referred to his commute yesterday. His first morning bus, a route that runs every 10-15 minutes, was 30 minutes late (the result of a rare combination of frequent lift use and an abundance of school children). Of course, this meant that he missed his transfer at Montlake–a few times–and was later than he wanted to be to work.

He left his office in Redmond at 8:10 (yeah, tell me about it), but thanks to last night’s 520 closure, his 8:17 bus didn’t arrive until well after 9:00. The rerouted bus got him downtown at an off time (when none of his preferred buses was expected), so he took one that dropped him off almost half a mile from his house and walked the rest of the way.

He finally arrived home at 10:35, at which time he me called to say, “I’ve got something good for your blog.”

So he did.

The world, according to Bus Chick

In April of 2003, I made a choice to sell my car and use the bus as my primary form of transportation. (To find out why, read my first Real Change column.)

In these first three “car-free” years, I have come to the following conclusions:

1. Seattle has one of the best bus systems in the country.
Though there is certainly room for improvement, having ridden the bus in many other cities (including Houston, Detroit, San Francisco, Boston, and Aspen), I can honestly say that King County Metro leads the pack.

2. It is possible (if not always convenient) to live here without a car.
Of course, it is not possible for everyone (delivery drivers, for example), but for most who are willing to make a few small changes to the way they live–and one big change to the way they think–it is a viable option. And now that Seattle has a car-sharing program (for those dog food/fertilizer/Costco runs) there is almost no risk to try it.

3) Future development of our city should focus on accommodating public transportation–not cars.
Part of the reason people are so shocked when I tell them I don’t have a car is because the cities and neighborhoods in our region were not constructed with the car-free individual in mind. From now on, they need to be. We must grow more efficiently and create an infrastructure that accommodates walking and riding–that is, unless we’d rather see more cars on the road.

4) Seattle really, really needs rapid transit.
Buses are good–certainly far better than the alternative of everyone driving alone–but let’s face it: They’re only part of the solution. A truly successful system integrates buses with a mode of transportation that is both nonpolluting and independent of traffic.

If you ride the bus in this region, want to ride the bus in this region, or just want to know what it’s like to ride the bus in this region, this blog is for you. You will find resources and information about our current bus system (for example how to get started, get around, or find the best solution to a transportation problem).

If you are interested in the future of public transportation or the future of this (beautiful but rapidly changing) city, this blog is for you. You will find information about current and upcoming transit projects, regular analyses of the gaps in service, and information about development projects that will influence the viability of a long-term transit solution.

Finally, if you are interested in your fellow citizens, this blog is definitely for you. You will find regular stories about all of the brilliant, insane, angry, kind, confused, beautiful people I encounter and observe every day.

If you’ve gotten this far, I hope it is because you are at least somewhat interested in coming back. I hope you will do so often.

Happy reading!