Tag Archives: Washington

My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 6

On the way back to Seattle, I found out I’d missed a reading with Bruce Pavitt, co-founder of Sub Pop, at Fantagraphics Bookstore with a gallery of grunge luminaries in attendance. Tad Doyle, Mark Arm, and Charles Peterson were on hand to celebrate the release of Pavitt’s book, Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989. As a fan of the music of these bands and the photography of Peterson, I wanted to stab myself for missing this event. But I was rewarded with a pretty decent consolation prize when I woke up the next morning and found out Mudhoney was performing a “secret gig” at an ice cream shop that night. I notoriously miss stuff like this. I could not believe my luck. Actually, I kind of didn’t want to believe it–the thought of seeing Mudhoney in a tiny, up-close environment sounded way too good to be true. I mean, this was classic Seattle story in the making. The way these bands were intended to be seen—in a tiny, grimy venue, screaming in your face.


The only way to preoccupy my hopes of seeing Mudhoney up close was to continue my self-guided tour of all things grunge. The husband and I kicked off the day with a revisit to Discovery Park, the filming location for Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” music video. This time, we took the entire trail to the beach for a better look at the landscape. I even pinpointed the patch of tall weeds that famously dwarf Eddie Vedder at the beginning of the video (It’s aaaaalllll the way at the end of the trail and then up the beach near some interesting piles of driftwood.). Because I’m a nerd. Like there’s any point in denying this. I may have even tried a burrito at Taco Time because it’s mentioned as a certain musician’s biography. Even Seattle’s fast food is better. What’s up with that?



Somewhere around here, Chris Cornell head-banged and Matt Cameron drummed from a sandbank.


Obligatory standing-in-Eddie’s-weeds photo.


A sea lion barked at us from the water while we were down by the lighthouse. He must’ve been goin’ hungry.


Driftwood fort on the beach. (Or Hobbit house??)

Next on the agenda was a trip to the former site of Reciprocal Recording. A strange little wedge-shaped building on the edge of a neighborhood, this windowless phenomenon was once owned by Chris Hanzsek and Jack Endino. The studio hosted a number of local bands, including Soundgarden, TAD, Green River, and Mudhoney. Superfuzz Bigmuff was recorded here, as well as Mother Love Bone’s initial 8-track demos. Reciprocal is where Nirvana recorded their demo tape with Jack Endino, which was then sent to Sub Pop. Formerly Triangle Records (and before that, Triangle Grocery), the once-yellow building is now painted brown and recently housed Chris Walla’s Hall of Justice studio.


That’s a lot of sound to come out of such a small building.

Of course, my tour of 90s Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the OK Hotel. This building is truly the stuff of legends. Now an apartment building, the OK Hotel was once a bar and music venue that hosted everybody who was anybody in Seattle’s emerging music scene in the late 80s and early 90s. Mudhoney, TAD, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, and Soundgarden all played here. It holds the distinction of being the venue where Nirvana first played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” live. You also might recognize this old building as the coffee shop in Cameron Crowe’s Seattle-centric film, Singles. In 1997, the Queens of the Stone Age played their first show here; four years later, the OK Hotel would end its days as a music venue after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake damaged the building and it was bought by redevelopers. I was very happy to see the new owners took care to restore the building and maintain the integrity of Seattle’s historic downtown.


It’s really hard to take a picture of the whole building without getting hit by a car. Standing in a busy street here under an overpass, dodging traffic.


As seen in Singles.


Lobby shot of the OK Hotel as seen creepin’ through the front window.

Not far away in Pioneer Square is the Central Saloon, interesting not only for its proclamation of being Seattle’s oldest bar in town (Technically, it’s not.), but also for holding Mother Love Bone’s final show. Take a peek inside its cramped quarters and you can better appreciate how the band was only on the verge of breaking out before Andy Wood’s untimely death.


Wasn’t here during a peak drinking hour, but the interior sure looked cool.

Next, I made a point to see the former location of the infamous Gorilla Gardens in Chinatown. Now a faceless carpeting business, the white building used to house some of the wildest shows in the city. This nefarious underground club saw a ton of police intervention before it was closed down, and saw the likes of the Fastbacks, the Circle Jerks, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, the Melvins, the U-Men, Green River, and Guns ‘n Roses. If you have never heard of this short-lived, crazy-ass club, look into it, if only for the Butthole Surfers chainsaw fire escape story.


The guy in the car wouldn’t leave until I took the picture. Congrats on your fame.

Of course, we weren’t leaving Seattle without seeing the Coryell Apartments in Belltown. Pray tell what is the significance of this U-shaped building? You tell me if this looks familiar.


The fountain in the courtyard was added for the movie, but otherwise the apartments have barely changed since Singles was filmed here.



Chris Cornell appreciating a new speaker system right before it blows out the car windows.

There were two more places of significance I wanted to see before we ended our self-guided tour. The first was the Re-bar, where Nirvana was kicked out of their own release party for “Nevermind” after starting a food fight. Re-bar used to feature one of Seattle’s Mother Love Bone’s murals, which is also featured in Singles.


Re-bar as it stands today.


How Re-bar looked for Singles.

Even though it doesn’t offer up much aesthetic value, I really wanted to see the Motorsports International Garage. On September 22, 1990, Nirvana played what was then their largest audience ever—15,000—and a dude named Dave Grohl was in the crowd that day. He ended up behind their drum kit three days later. Many see this high-octane show as the turning point of the band’s career.


I couldn’t find out if this is the original building, but this is at least the address for the Motorsports International Garage where Nirvana played.

After another day filled with musical tourism, we headed over to Full Tilt Ice Cream, where I came an inch away from being permanently known as “Bass in the Face.” But that deserves its own post.


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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 5

Of course, no trip to the pacific northwest would be complete without at least a drive-by assessment of the great state of Oregon. Because of time restraints and nostalgia priorities, all of my knowledge of Oregon is therefore made up entirely of Goonies filming locations.

View from the highway on the way to Astoria.

Our self-guided tour of everything Goonies took us to the picturesque town of Astoria and then to Cannon Beach, home of Haystack Rock. Almost everything looks exactly as it did in the movie. It’s like Astoria has been locked in a time capsule since 1985—and this is not a complaint. I fell head-over-heels in love with the seascape and the old Victorian homes, especially the Flavel House, which stands next to one of the single largest trees I’ve ever seen.


The historic Flavel House. Can I please live here?


Check out the size of this epic tree! It’s actually a 115-year-old giant sequoia. According to the museum, Captain Flavel collected trees from his trips across the world.

Being from Illinois, I was right at home with the bone-chilling, Chicago-esque weather conditions during our stay. It didn’t seem like Astoria was used to getting much snow, as the hilly streets were laden with cat litter to keep cars from slip-sliding into one another. The weather made the trek to the Goonies house near the top of the hill a bit perilous. I’d brought my all-weather, come-at-me-bro North Face parka, but didn’t think my snow boots would be necessary. Wrong.


Have fun walking up this snowy lane in skater shoes or Chucks!

Unlike most movie locations, the owners of the Goonies house actually welcome fans. They don’t give tours, but they have a cute little sign outside their house welcoming you to the “Goondocks.” So you can totally stand outside and take pictures and perform the truffle shuffle without feeling like a creeper. If you go, remember it’s a private residence, so don’t be weird and knock on their door to regale them about the time Michael Jackson used your bathroom.


The Goonies house proudly overlooks the town of Astoria.


Goondocks sign–how cool are these people?

One good thing about the crummy weather is it eliminated any trace of tourists. We had full run of the beaches and the adorable downtown. As luck would have it, Astoria even has an independent record store. While it’s not exactly Vintage Vinyl, the place scored points in my book by hosting some furry residents—it’s actually a record store/animal rescue. So when I found the reissue of Temple of the Dog in stock, I had to give the place business. Because I was sort of literally in a temple for dogs. Get it? Besides a huge room packed with used DVDs, CDs, and cassettes, I was really surprised they had so many new vinyl releases. (It’s coming back, y’all, whether you like it or not!) I hope this place stays in business, because animals and vinyl are two of my favorite things.


The gorgeous Liberty Theatre in downtown Astoria.

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Street 14 Coffee in an old hotel. So cute I can hardly stand it.

I have to take a moment to give props to one more independent business in Astoria, Geno’s Pizza and Burgers. There was zero expectation of finding decent pizza in Oregon, and I was immediately impressed by the fact they offered fresh basil as a topping. You know your pizza experience is about to be elevated when fresh basil is an option. But the pies! Their pies were half a foot tall! (Not the pizza pies, the dessert kind.) Be forewarned: the peanut butter pie will send you straight into a sugar coma. Perhaps best of all, Geno’s was full of locals. There was even a textbook cliché Old Man of the Sea in there with his grandson. It was almost like walking into a Jack London novel, except without the wolves. Sometimes, it’s all about the atmosphere.

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View from the bluff over Cannon Beach. You need a spyglass to see it up close, but Haystack Rock is the big rock poking out of the surf just before the horizon.

While Astoria was like walking into a Norman Rockwell snow globe, Cannon Beach has the look of a vacation destination for summer travelers. Though it’s a lot more spruced up and less-dedicated to preserving its historic buildings, the town is worth a visit for Ecola State Park, which includes the beach, forest, and look-out point over ocean. Remember when the Goonies peered through the pirate medallion to line up the rocks on the beach? That was shot on the bluff. And if you turn 180 degrees, you can see where the Fratellis’ restaurant was built for the movie. Taking a gander around, it’s easy to see why the filmmakers chose Cannon Beach for their pirate-themed adventure movie. It’s a natural wonderland, and only part of it is revealed in the film. I can’t wait to come back and explore all it has to offer. Hopefully next time I can leave the parka at home.


Beach view of Haystack Rock from the opposite side. There’s a tiny cave inside it!

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What trip to Goonies territory would be complete without stumbling upon an old ship? Here are the remains of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground in 1906.

There was one more irresistible filming location I had to hit on the way back to Seattle. Racing to beat the sunset, we stopped through Tacoma, Washington and found the high school and house from 10 Things I Hate About You. Stadium High School is not only a crazy-impressive looking building, like a castle overlooking the bay, it features that iconic bowl football field where Heath Ledger evaded campus police whilst singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to Julia Stiles. Visiting both movie locations in one day was a double blast of childhood nostalgia and gave me an excuse to visit places I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to check out.


Entrance of Stadium High School, as seen in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You.


Stadium Football Field overlooking the bay. “IIII love youu baaaby…”


Though the pole with the loudspeaker is now gone, (Maybe installed by the filmmakers) this is the place Heath slid down into the bowl.


Kat’s (Julia Stiles) house in 10 Things.

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 4

As the saying goes, it’s good to put a name with a face. Descriptions go a long way, but a description is only one person’s opinion. Thus, I decided to go to Aberdeen, Washington, and see the town where Kurt Cobain grew up for myself.


I first passed through Aberdeen and saw the town welcome sign on the way to the Olympic National Forest; it still reads “Come As You Are,” in tribute to the town’s most famous son. For those who know Kurt’s story, the sentiment feels ironic, as the man who wrote the line never felt the same kind of acceptance growing up in this shuttered logging community.

Aberdeen has been described as a small town with not much culture to offer, though Kurt wasn’t the only artist to come from here. Dale Crover, drummer for the Melvins, was born in Aberdeen; the local band served as an inspiration for budding musicians like Kurt and Krist Novoselic. Krist moved to Aberdeen with his family in 1979, which is how Kurt eventually met him and the two ended up forming a band together.

Early Nirvana photo. Kurt, Krist, and Chad Channing circa 1988.

Early Nirvana. Kurt, Krist, and Chad Channing.

The hotel I stayed at was literally on the Wishkah River, but even in all its quasi-familiarity, Aberdeen looked a little different during my visit than it does most days. The girl at the front desk kept looking out the window like a spooked animal, prompting me to ask, “Do you guys usually get this kind of snow here?”

“No. We usually get snow once or twice a year,” she said. “And never this early.” She was worried this onset of early snow meant Aberdeen would be getting more than their fair share over the winter. For all her worries and the horror stories I heard about Washington drivers in the snow, the roads were as clear as they would be in any other small town, and the drivers were no more panicky than anyone in the Midwest. Unlike Seattle, the town of Aberdeen is relatively flat and doesn’t feature the same hair-raising hills that can make snow driving a thrill ride. The town sits in the middle of Grays Harbor, between Hoquiam and Cosmopolis, and is conjoined to the former so that it’s hard to tell where one ends and one begins. The town is split by the boat-clogged Chehalis River, which the Wishkah pours into. While city people may consider the town “small,” Aberdeen is three times the size of the town I grew up in, so I came to it with a different perspective.

Former site of the Hoquiam Eagles Lodge, where Nirvana played in 1988.

Former site of the Hoquiam Eagles Lodge, where Nirvana played in 1988.

Yes, Aberdeen is run down. Yes, it clearly has a lot of poverty. More than a few houses sit abandoned in the neighborhood where Kurt’s childhood home still sits. The closing of the lumber mills in the 1970s and 80s did this town no favors. But honestly? It’s not much worse than some of the small Midwestern towns near where I live now. Maybe it’s just a place that got too big for its britches. It still has some nice things, even a community college, and while the surrounding hills bear the scars of their pillaging, it doesn’t look like a bald-faced ghost town. Some of the trees have even grown back in the surrounding area. To me, Aberdeen looks like a town with possibilities. If you look hard enough, you can see the buds of an artist’s community starting to grow, the route many old mining towns in the West have taken on the road to salvation.


Young Street Bridge spanning the [muddy banks of the] Wishkah River.

Statue of Kurt's Jag-Stang guitar in Riverfront Park.

Statue of Kurt’s Fender Jag-Stang guitar in Riverfront Park.

I have to admit I was mildly relieved not to find any hideous billboards dotting the highway with Kurt’s likeness. Aberdeen doesn’t advertise its ties to Cobain—you have to know what you’re looking for when you visit, which is just the way I like it. There are no signs marking homes with historical significance; only the Young Street Bridge is designated with Kurt’s memorial park, and even the bridge exists as a place where only fans know to go and leave their tributes. The bridge isn’t a major throughway, spanning a peaceful part of the Wishkah mostly crossed by locals. Riverfront Park doesn’t have any real public parking, either—the spot sits on the edge of the river, next to the bridge with a few plaques and a sculpture of Kurt’s Fender Jag-Stang guitar with lyrics from “On a Plain:” “One more special message to go and then I’m done and I can go home.” The guitar was erected only in 2011, and is much nicer to look at than the “Cement Resurrection” sculpture, which was never put on public display.



Underneath the bridge.


Fan graffiti beneath Young Street Bridge.


Tributes for Kurt.

Quotes in stone.

During my visit, Kurt’s childhood home was still for sale and sitting unoccupied. There was no sign outside designating this, but anyone who follows a music publication could tell you about it from the blitz of stories on the house this past year. It’s just as modest as you might expect, and has a tiny, tidy lawn and a microscopic backyard. It looked innocent under a blanket of freshly-fallen snow, and a little sad with a couple of broken windows. Across the street sits an abandoned house mocking the $500,000 price tag.

Kurt's childhood home.

Kurt’s childhood home.

I’m glad the house sits unchanged, because I like to see things as they always have been. Inevitably, someone will buy it and probably fix it up. Maybe they’ll make a museum out of it, or better yet, a place for underprivileged kids to come and be exposed to the arts, a safe haven for budding artists who like Kurt, didn’t have a place to go when home stopped feeling like an option.

Downtown Aberdeen has a walk of fame for their local celebrities, and Kurt has a star on the sidewalk in front of the building that used to house the music store where he bought his first guitar. On this day, finding the marker was a bit more difficult, but after a bit of searching, I uncovered the star in the snow.


The Pourhouse is the only public place in Aberdeen Nirvana (or at least, a version of the band) ever played a show. The saloon is still open, and as it turns out, serves pretty decent food. A recent renovation added a stage for bands on the side room of the building, an upgrade from the tiny space at the front window, the spot our waitress designated as the old stage where Nirvana actually performed.


The Pourhouse. Can’t help but love it.

Former area where bands used to play in the Pour House.

Former area where bands used to play in the Pourhouse.

Maybe it was the snow, maybe it was the quiet or the lack of tourists, but I kind of liked Aberdeen. While I completely understood why anyone with an appreciation for culture wouldn’t want to live there, I have a soft spot run-down, gritty cityscapes and the history they leave for dead. As an artist, dirt is more interesting than the sanitized; survivors speak about perseverance and the people who abandoned them for something different. This is exactly the kind of place that would inspire a soul to want more out of life, to leave the ruins of a past glory far behind.

Kurt Cobain is not in Aberdeen, but it’s obvious this was the place that shaped him.

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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 3

Olympic National Park would’ve been amazing any time of the year, but it was particularly awesome during our visit because we had the entire park to ourselves. With majestic seascapes and soaring evergreens dripping with moss, it was like wandering onto the set of the Lord of the Rings. It’s possible the snow and frigid temperatures had something to do with the lack of tourists, but it hardly kept us from enjoying nature’s beauty.

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The moss doesn’t actually hurt the trees, unlike the vines in the Midwest.

If you can see past my poor camera’s exposure capabilities, you can begin to understand how disgustingly beautiful this place is. Just off the highway was a trail leading to the beach, and a small wooden bridge spanning a creek because it simply wasn’t picturesque enough without an adorable bridge leading to the rocky shore. And then, driftwood! Driftwood as far as the eye could see! Like, so much my driftwood-coveting mom would’ve surely swooned right there on the sand.

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Disgustingly scenic snowy bridge leading to the beach.

Snowy driftwood, just in case the view wasn't spectacular enough.

Snowy driftwood, just in case the view wasn’t spectacular enough.

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Perfect beach rocks are perfect.

View of the coastal pines from the beach. Believe it or not, these were the wimpier trees.

View of the coastal pines from the beach. Believe it or not, these were the wimpier trees.

The enormous growths on these spruce trees are called “burls,” as in Burl Ives, only they’re not as holly jolly. Trees form burls after an injury or if they’ve contracted a nasty virus or fungus. These growths are a reminder of how the natural world is a masterwork in the absence of human interference.

Our main objective was to make it to the Hoh Rainforest before sunset, so we didn’t have a lot of time to frolic on random stops along the way. Still, I couldn’t help but shriek every other mile for my husband to pull over so I could take pictures the prehistoric-looking trees and ferns under the feathery snow.

So. Freaking. Pretty.

As it turns out, I am obsessed with moss-covered things.

The thing about these towering forests is you can’t get a decent picture of them. I grew more and more frustrated with my point and shoot camera as the scenery exploded with obscene beauty. There’s no way to articulate their majesty in photos. It’s like trying to replicate the Mona Lisa with washable markers. This quote from God, a.k.a. John Steinbeck, perfectly sums up my sentiments: “The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” Though Steinbeck may be referring to the California Sequoias, this quote is more than applicable when it comes to the woody skyscrapers of Olympic National Park. What’s more, unlike every single time I’ve ever visited Sequoia National Park, there weren’t tourists crawling all over the trees, giving it the illusion of an unspoiled fairyland.


Hoh in the snow.

There was only one other car in the parking lot when we finally reached the Hoh Rainforest. Amongst the trees lived the most soul-enriching silence. You couldn’t hear any traffic, or people, or any signs that civilization existed. Pure magnificence. The snow only frosted the blinding greenery, not obscuring it, freezing this emerald wonderland in a ghostly glaze. The scenery looked too magical, too breathtaking, to be real. I half-expected a satyr to leap out of the ferns and start jabbering to me about a secret quest.


This way to Pan’s Labyrinth.


A nurse log supports the lives of mature trees in the Hoh Rainforest.

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Moss monster of the Hoh Rainforest.

Moss monster of the Hoh Rainforest.

How fortunate the people of Washington are to have this amazing forest. I’ve traveled to many of America’s most beautiful places, and this ranks near the top of my favorites. I can’t wait to come back and explore it more, when my toes won’t be in danger of breaking off in the cold. There are other  similar forests in Washington and Oregon I didn’t get to visit, which will broaden my explorations on future trips. The nice thing about missing sites on your first visit is it gives you a reason to come back. Washington gave me plenty of incentives to return.


Even the streams are mossy!

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