Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cabin Tavern: Skull Over the Bar

Cabin Tavern - Bellingham, WA

It's devil working the details here that makes the Cabin a great bar: a skull over the bar is always a good sign, then ice cold glasses and Hamm's on draft. A jukebox that plays a great collection of 45s. An excellent selection of tequila. That little magical golden unicorn, the twilight Hamm's sign, the audio track of the fishing show in the bathroom, a two-headed wolf. Take all this and add great bartenders and a charming owner, all who are committed to making sure you get the best drink while listening to the best music and are having the best time.

Cabin Tavern - Bellingham, WA

Cap Hansen's Tavern: Monkeys dressed in sharp suits

Cap Hansen's Tavern - Bellingham, WA

For better or worse, the go-to dive bar in Bellingham. Cheap but strong drinks, bartenders' attitudes that run the gamut from stereotypically surly to efficiently enabling, the classic Bukowsky-esque assortment of barflys and a surreal decor that is half vintage beer sign, half paintings of monkeys dressed in sharp suits drinking mugs of beer. 

I love Cap's on a Sunday afternoon after the Seahawks have lost, when the crowd of mostly lonely males is / are drunk, sad and irritable. Then the bartender turns the TV to some bad 80s movie and someone plays Purple Rain on the jukebox. And everything wrong in the world seems endurable, if not entirely right. 

Avoid the weekends when it fills with Western Students learning how to drink and throw-up. Try the free popcorn; it's the healthiest thing you can put in your mouth at Cap's (mostly). On Sundays nights, there is one of the best, raucous - and often poignantly talented -karaokes in town. The signature drink is the Peruvian Bear Fucker. Don't ask, just drink. 

Try a shot of Hussong tequila and a Miller Genuine Draft, the champagne of beers with the cognac of tequilas. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sehome Hill Arboretum: The Green Fuse

Observation Tower on Sehome Hill, Bellingham, WA

A sanctuary in the center of Bellingham, the Arboretum offers a surprising and welcome solitude for those who are suffering from Information Sickness or the gentle urban pressures of Bellingham's subdued bustle. While popular, it is not nearly as crowded as Lake Padden or the the Interurban Trail. Indeed, there have been many early mornings where I have thankfully not encountered another human soul. There's always a mysterious engagement to walking up a hill or a mountain, the point being ostensibly to get to the summit, but more to enjoy the journey on the way. Something of a Mount Analogue.

Over the years the Arboretum has seen it's fair share of logging and coal mining. Fortunately some farsighted souls designated Sehome Hill as a park in 1922 to preserve its unique character. The hand-cut hobbit like tunnel at the top was created in 1923 to accommodate the passage of early Model T automobiles; now it is only a footpath to the Other Side. Note this is not a cultivated and landscaped sort of Arboretum and Bellingham is the better for it. There are portions of the South Ridge Trail, where it is easy to believe you are in deep woods, far from any sign of human or noxious machinery.

You can find parking in the crowded (Western students) lot off Bill MacDonald, across from Sehome High School. From there, the recommended ascent is not up the road, but along the well-worn path at the Southwest corner of the forest. Here the trail runs along the western side of the hill, passing a fern-lined natural amphitheater, to turn round gentle switchbacks to an 80 ft wooden observation tower. In the summer months, when the trees are full of leaves, there is a limited view of the bay to the northwest; but there is a view nonetheless. Further along, you pass through the tunnel to emerge on the other side where a large prohibitively fenced in radio tower stands humming. Here you come to the asphalt road, which descends a winding wooded way back to the parking lot.

However, there are many lesser traveled paths that take you deeper into the woods. Story goes that the area was heavily mined for coal in the mid-1800s and a network of tunnels lace extensively through the Hill. The entrances are no longer known. But on those deep forest paths, there are moments of strange enchantment where you wonder about the other worlds underneath and Heidegger's Holzwege: paths that lead nowhere.  Open from dusk until dawn.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Tunnel on Sehome Hill, Bellingham, WA

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Lake Padden: Sky Water

Lake Padden - October 2014

Lake Padden - October 2015

Lake Padden - October 2015

Lake Padden is one the many beautiful natural spaces that makes Bellingham such an extraordinary place to live. In many European cities, there are great and expansive city parks and gardens, manicured and cultivated, famous places for the citizens to walk around and through. Lake Padden is one of several such beautiful walks in Bellingham, where you see so many friendly faces on their morning, afternoon or evening walks.

The Lake is beautiful and sublime year round, a perfect jewell that transforms throughout the seasons. The well maintained main trail is a comfortable 2.75 miles around. There are several bathrooms spaced along the way. A series of poignant memorial benches can be found spaced around the Lake. There are also two main piers and a concrete fishing area that almost always has a few old men fishing every day during the season.

In the summer, the grassy "beach" on the south side of the Lake fills up with families and younger people, laying in the sun, grilling, inflating floaties, swimming and paddle boarding. It's an idyllic and simultaneously nostalgic scene. Many people walk their dogs around the Lake. There is a contained off-leash area on the north side of the Lake.

There is also a winding set of "backwoods" trails where horses can be ridden and dogs unleashed. Note there are a number of bikers also that occasionally forget others are on the trail. There are also showers and changing areas on the south side. Plenty of parking at both entrances. Plenty of picnic table and grills. Lake Padden is Bellingham's own beautiful Walden, a peaceful, meditative and inspiring natural wonder.

See also: 9 Curious Notes on the History of Lake Padden

In such a day, in September or October, Walden is a perfect forest mirror, set round with stones as precious to my eye as if fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair, so pure, and at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the surface of the earth. Sky water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go without defiling it. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will never wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs; no storms, no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh; — a mirror in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun’s hazy brush — this the light dust-cloth — which retains no breath that is breathed on it, but sends its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be reflected in its bosom still. 

A field of water betrays the spirit that is in the air. It is continually receiving new life and motion from above. It is intermediate in its nature between land and sky. On land only the grass and trees wave, but the water itself is rippled by the wind. I see where the breeze dashes across it by the streaks or flakes of light. It is remarkable that we can look down on its surface. We shall, perhaps, look down thus on the surface of air at length, and mark where a still subtler spirit sweeps over it.

- Walden, Thoreau

Lake Padden - January 2016

Lake Padden - November 2016

Friday, October 13, 2017

Honey Moon Mead & Cider

Honey Moon Mead & Cider

The Honey Moon is a Bellingham treasure. They make delicious award-winning Meads and Ciders in back, while in front, there is a cozy tasting room where you can enjoy drinking these refreshing elixirs. And they serve excellent small plates of cheeses and meats, homemade soups, great mac n cheese and heaven dissolving in your mouth cakes from Pure Bliss. Be sure to check out the seasonal Mead and Cider offerings from Hot Spiced Mead or Frozen Meadaritas to exclusive kegs of Bourbon Barrel-aged Ciders.

They also have live music, spoken word and poetic performances six nights a week. They book talented local acts exclusively and have been at the heart and soul of the Bellingham acoustic and traditional music scene for years. Irish Monday always features amazing performances. Their Wednesday Open Mic is legendary. Sing out in praise: Hallelujah, Honey Moon! They are located speakeasy style in the alley behind Pepper Sisters. Don't miss it!

The Black Drop Coffeehouse

Best coffee in Bellingham for many years. Their espresso is second to none. Their beans are delivered fresh every week from the talented roaster at Maniac Roasting. Try it out every Friday when they give away doppios for free! Their lattes and specialty drinks are amazing,  the milk is perfectly steamed into delicious micro-foam. They are also on point with beautiful latte art. You have to try to Level 10 Fireball - a chipotle mocha latte. All of their delicious pastries are made in house. Sometimes there is a wait, but it's well worth it. They've won the Best Coffeehouse award and Best Barista award every year and they deserve it. They also a vital part of the community, giving to local organizations and proving a unique and safe space for everyone.

See also:

The Black Drop: If the shot's not perfect, we throw it out.
The Mystery of Coffee
Black Drop Ephemera

The Old World Deli

House-made Corned Beef with Potato Salad at Old World Deli

Hands down, the best sandwiches in Bellingham are at the Old World Deli. I personally believe their house-made corned beef to be the best I've ever had - with Swiss and spicy mustard on rye, served warm. The German potato salad is supreme.  In addition they also make excellent soups and salads - their mushroom soup, in particular, is outstanding.

There are new specials every day and you'll never go wrong with any of them. The wine selection is one of the finest in town with more than reasonable prices. They also have a dizzying array of condiments, oils, seasonings, chocolates and much more for you to buy.

There are always well-attended wine tastings and special themed dinners. Local musicians perform on Saturday nights. It's a good sign to me that most of the staff has been there for years, everyone is friendly and make you feel like family.