The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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A Winter Trip to Seattle

Hello, Adventurous!

Recently, my wife and I spent a few days in Seattle, Washington to visit her sister, Lessa, and for you, I’m going to recap what we did to give you ideas for your Seattle trip. I would recommend watching the video with this article first. I captured the experience through a combination of videos taken from both my iPhone 8 and Panasonic GH5, as well as photos with text hence why parts will look different. For this trip, we flew in on Thursday, December 7 and flew out early on the morning of Monday, December 11th. Since on Thursday we didn’t do anything other than eat dinner and stay at the hotel, let’s get started with breakfast on Friday morning.

Four Spoons Cafe - photo by Dennis Spielman
Friday morning we meet with Lessa and her roommate (and our friend too), Jordan, at their apartment. For breakfast, we went to one of their favorite places, Four Spoons Cafe, which was a short walk from their place (but we drove). Our breakfast was delicious! One thing they recommend is their potatoes, even if you’re not too big into potatoes, give them a try. I can see why Lessa and Jordan go there all the time.

Olympic Sculpture Park - photo by Dennis Spielman
After breakfast, Lessa, Leslie, and I went to went to the Olympic Sculpture Park (while Jordan had to work). It’s a free, public outdoor sculpture museum and beach. It has some pretty impressive pieces of art there. We also walked the beach there because beaches are bitching.

Pie at pie - photo by Dennis Spielman
We had scheduled a chocolate factory tour to go to in the afternoon, so went to the Fremont District after that. We had a few hours to spare before our tour, so we walked around the district, had some yummy pie from a place simply called pie. It was a tiny place, which I adore. There were a bunch of tiny hidden businesses throughout the district.

Leslie and Dennis at the Fremont Troll - photo by Lessa Keller-Kenton
Of course, we saw the Fremont Troll, which was on my list to check out. I learned that the Fremont Arts Council had launched an art competition in 1990 to help rehabilitate the area under the bridge, which was becoming a dumping ground and haven for drug dealers. By making a tourist attraction, people were always there and thus deterring negative behaviors. If you are interested in learning more about the power of public art, I suggest watching my documentary, Inviting Art.

A tour of Theo Chocolate - photo by Dennis Spielman
Next to the troll was a community garden, which that was pretty cool. We made our way to Theo Chocolate for our tour. I wasn’t allowed to take video of the tour, but pictures were okay. It wasn’t long or big. There were three areas; one was the waiting room, another a presentation area where they talked about chocolates, and a windowed room where we saw most of the equipment. One thing I do want to point out is that Theo Chocolate is a bean to bar factory and so that means they take the raw seeds to make their chocolate, which not very many places do. They’re also all organic and fair trade. Props to them on that!

Inside the Pike Place Market - photo by Dennis Spielman
After visiting the gift shop and buying some chocolates, we went to the famous Pike Place Market. The thing that surprised me about the Pike Place Market was how eclectic it was and that it had more of a flea market vibe and less of an upscale market I had envisioned. There were also a ton of hidden nooks and crannies, and that was fun to explore. And the surrounding area was pretty cool too. We found this alleyway covered in gum, making art with used gum. I liked it, but I know some people will find it gross.

When our parking meter ran out, we called it a day. Bonus Tip: You can’t trick the parking meter into letting you buy more time after your max time.

Aaron and Dennis at the Golden Gardens Park
On Saturday, we picked up Lessa and went to the Golden Gardens Park, where I met up with my friend, Aaron, who I’ve known since grade-school. We all walked around the beach for awhile, and then the guys and girls split up. Leslie and Lessa spent the afternoon at a bathhouse while Aaron and I went on our adventure to get a mystery soda.

One of the poems at the park - photo by Dennis Spielman
After getting a mystery soda, Aaron and I walked around Cal Anderson Park where we found two poems in a bottle. We didn’t keep the poems as I wanted to let someone else also have the joy of discovering them as we did.

Aaron and I then went to the Ballard District where we explored the game shop, Mox Boarding House. Then Aaron and I went our separate ways. Afterall, he did drive up to Seattle from Hoquiam with his family, and they wanted lunch and to do things in town as well. It was great seeing him, and I’m glad he was able to visit. (If you’re reading this Aaron, thank you again!)

With some time to spare waiting for the girls, I grabbed a slice of pizza from Ballard Pizza Company. But I wanted to try a bunch of things in the area, so I went to Li’l Woody’s for a small burger, then to Full Tilt Ice Cream, and a mocha from Caffe Umbria. All were tasty! Walking around the Ballard District reminded me of Downtown Norman, but bigger.

Cafe Turko - photo by Dennis Spielman
I reconnected with Leslie and Lessa after their relaxing bathhouse experience where we just drove around for a bit, picked up one of Lessa’s friends, and then we went to the Fremont District where we had dinner at Cafe Turko. I can’t remember the last time I had Turkish food, but I loved it. No one had any complaints, so I recommend giving them a try.

To cap off our Saturday night, we to Schilling Cider House where we ordered two flights of ciders and hung out. They had all kinds of games to play and if you wanted, you could have food delivered there because they didn’t serve anything. Again, that was a cool place to hang out and end the night.

Grumpy D's Coffee House - photo by Dennis Spielman
Sunday started with coffee, of course, at Grumpy D’s Coffee House with Lessa, Leslie, and myself. We had originally planned to go somewhere else, but there was a line out the door, so we doubled back on our route to Grumpy D’s that we had seen along the way. Lessa hadn’t been there yet, so it was new for all of us, and we liked it.

Discovery Park - photo by Dennis Spielman
With caffeine in our veins, we went to Discovery Park. Discovery Park is along the shores of Puget Sound in the Magnolia neighborhood. It’s the city’s largest public park and contains over 11 miles of walking trails! We were lucky enough to have a sunny winter day in the park. Even in December, there was lots of green.

Museum of Pop Culture - photo by Dennis Spielman
To allow Lessa time to do laundry and grocery shopping, we traded her for Jordan and Jordan brought us to The Museum of Pop Culture, where he had a membership pass. There was so much to see and interact with at the museum! We spent a good chunk of our time at the Jim Henson Exhibition. The thing that suprised me the most about Jim Henson was all of the other things he wanted to do, including a night club. We would’ve spent more time at the museum. However, we were getting hungry. We grabbed a bite to eat at the Armory in Seattle’s Center. We didn’t do much else there as it was cold.

We went back to the Pike Place Market, this time finding free parking, to pick up gifts. We didn’t spend too much time the second time around as it took us forever to find a parking spot. The goal was to get some flowers for my mom and a hoodie for my sister, which we achieved.

For our last dinner in Seattle, Leslie and I wanted fresh fish, so we traded Jordan for Lessa and went to Chinook’s At Salmon Bay. The restaurant was located Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal so we couldn’t get much more connected to the ocean than that.

To end the trip, the three of us got a wonderful massage at Elements Massage.

That’s it for our Seattle trip! Leslie and I would love to go back again in the summer. We’ve discussed maybe we would stay in the Downtown area next and focus on things to do in that area. We would definitely go back to the Pike Place Market again, explore more of Seattle Center, and perhaps take a longer hike through Discovery Park.

Recommendation: Pebble Smart Watch

I brought myself a Pebble Smartwatch after Christmas last year and I think it’s time to write just how much I love it. The case I want to make for owning a smart watch is that I don’t feel like slave to my phone. If I get a message or notification, I can simply look at my wrist instead of having to dig my phone out. I can always feel the vibration of the watch while sometimes I won’t feel my phone or think it vibrates when it hasn’t. Overall, wearing a smartwatch makes owning a phone less of a distraction.

The Pebble is on the lower end of smart watches in that it cannot call or text people and the black and white e-paper display, but the trade offs are worth it. For starters, I only have to change the watch once maybe twice a week on average. Honestly, if I want to call or text to someone, I’ll just pull out my iPhone.

The watch is durable. I wear it to work, banging it on things all the time, and it only has a few scratches. I’m right handed, but I wear my watch on my right hand because it feels natural to me. Water doesn’t bother the Pebble either since it doesn’t have a microphone or camera.

My favorite feature: I love hooking my phone up to speakers and controlling the music with my watch. There are other remote apps available too, but I only use the music one. I can’t forget to mention all of the watch faces and being able to change the look of it. So cool.

The firmware updates that have been released over the past year have made the watch even better. One of the updates was low battery notification. For me, when it warns I’m at 20%, it’s a clear indication to change the watch at the end of the day. (The watch has always lasted the rest of the day, even if I get this warning first thing in the morning.) There was another update where pressing a button was able to clear the notification from my phone. Pretty much every software feature I wished the watch could do when I first bought it has come out.

The Pebble smartwatch is great buy with its remote capabilities, notifications, and days of battery life.

The Dinner Detective

The Dinner Detective
The Dinner Detective is a national interactive murder mystery dinner show and made it’s debut in Oklahoma City in early June. Each Dinner Detective show begins with a cocktail interrogation session. During this time, all of the guests are encouraged to speak to the other guests. Unbeknownst to them, the show has already started.

Last night, Leslie and I attended one of the special Halloween shows where people had the option of arriving in costume. I received complementary passes for running an article on them on Uncovering Oklahoma. I had been looking forward to going to the show as I’ve never been to one before, other than ones I’ve made myself with my Movie Murder Mystery Party book.

The Dinner Detective with Detectives Guns and Roses
We had some hesitations about the show as the last few live shows we’ve seen fell flat. Those hesitations went away when Detectives Guns and Roses burst down an imaginary door because the Sheraton Hotel wouldn’t let them bust down the real doors. The actors were fantastic and energetic–and I’m not saying that because I knew most of them. It was a bit strange for me when I first saw someone I personally knew and I was given a look that told me, “I don’t know you.” When I saw more of my friends, who all turned out to be actors for the show, I had to play along that I didn’t know them. It’s kind of weird pretending not to know someone. After the show, I apologized to some of my friends for not being like friendly, but they knew I was playing along and were glad I didn’t blow their cover.

The show included a simple four course meal. Leslie and I had gotten the fish. Some of the other people at our table got the chicken. No one at our table had any complaints about the food other than that dinner could’ve be brought out a little sooner and maybe some more bread. The cash bar was standard, which a good selection of drinks.

The Dinner Detective
As for whodunit, I’m not going to tell. I will tell you we didn’t guess the murderer correctly, despite the edge of knowing which some of the guests were actors. The person who I thought was the murderer, ended up getting killed in the show. I was told after the show, that several people guessed I was the killer. Perhaps it was because of the clue I found? Yeah, let’s go with that answer.

In summary, The Detective Detective was fun a evening. If you do go, plan some extra time for parking and bring some friends.

Recommendation: Welcome to Night Vale

I want to preface this recommendation that I haven’t followed any podcasts until now. Welcome to Night Vale was introduced to me as a radio show from the place of Courage the Cowardly Dog. The twice-monthly podcast describes itself as “community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.”

The show is clever, dark, and witty such as this moment from the first podcast:

“Hello listeners. To start things off I’ve been asked to read this brief notice: the city council announces the opening of a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Summerset near the Ralph’s. They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible you will see hooded figures in the dog park. Do not approach them. Do not approach the dog park. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the dog park, and especially do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The dog park will not harm you.”

Welcome to Night Vale is wonderfully written and narrated show that gets my recommendation.

Recommendation: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers, so of course, this recommendation is for his newest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. A novel – although short but still technically a novel – The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a modern fairy-tale fantasy that touches on memory, the way we see the world as a child and as adults, and how we remember things compared to others. The story starts out with the narrator visiting a former neighbor’s house from his childhood. When he sees the pond that his friend, Lettie Hempstock, called the ocean, he remembers the time he stubbled upon the Hempstock family’s supernatural secret and the multiple layers of reality. I enjoyed the subtle introduction of the Hempstock’s supernaturalness. I had to stop and re-read the scene because it was interesting and well played. After that point, the book took off and I had to keep reading to know more about the Hempstocks. It’s a short book, making for a quick and enjoyable afternoon read.

I had pre-ordered my copy from Porter Square Books, where Neil Gaiman signed a bunch of copies, and I received it on the release date. I am happy to have it in my collection and therefor The Ocean at the End of the Lane gets my recommendation.

If you’re interested in my other recommendations, read them here.

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