Under Aurora

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Tourists can be mistaken for not knowing its real name, but I would imagine most Seattleites, who’ve lived here all their life, and perhaps for eons have crossed it every day, wouldn’t be able to tell you the real name of the “Aurora” Bridge. It probably takes a smart-alec interloper, such as myself, to tell you that its real name is the George Washington Memorial Bridge.

 

But certain things stick, and the Aurora Bridge got its common moniker because it carries Aurora Avenue (Highway 99) across the ship canal from Queen Anne Hill to Fremont. The state officially dedicated the bridge on February 22, 1932 – George Washington’s 200th birthday – and the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

 

But whether Aurora or George Washington Memorial, it has a somewhat dubious last destination scene for the depressed by being the Northwest’s most notorious suicide site for over 80 years. It’s famously where many have ended it all with a 164-foot leap as they bid adieu to this cruel world. All of which is a great irony (and I don’t mean the steel girders), because I have always felt that the real beauty of this cantilever bridge is to be found from the stunning views underneath looking up, where all the artistic and architectural detail can be found.

 

Leica M3 & 21mm Super-Angulon f4
B+W Orange Filter
Sekonic L-308S
Kodak Tri-X (@250)
HC-110 (Dil.H – 1:63 @ 8:30 minutes)
Plustek 7600i & Vuescan

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Richard Beyer’s sculpture Waiting for the Interurban – located in Fremont, the Centre of the Universe – pays tribute to the old Seattle-Everett Interurban railway. Sections of the track can are still visible around town, a subtle reminder of a time before the rise of the automobile. I have always felt there is a sense of irony to this piece as the City of Seattle has spent much of the last two decades dragging their feet on how best to build a public rail system when in fact one was already in place some 100 years ago.

 

The cool thing about Richard Beyer’s art installation is that anyone is invited to decorate it as they see fit. Which is why most times it can be seen  all dressed up for a birthday – or this time of the year, a Christmas – party; or, in this photo, with a collection of books for a book drive. The only rules are to leave decorations be if they look new or fresh and no advertising slogans or corporate slogans.

 

Nikon FM2 & Nikon 50mm 1.4 Ai-s
B+W Circular Polarizer
Ilford HP5+ (@400)
HC-110 (Dil. H – 10min)
Plustek 7600i & Vuescan

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In a week that saw Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov, otherwise known as Lenin, being knocked from his pedestal, smashed into pieces by mallet-wielding men and carried off in hundreds of small granite chunks in Kiev after hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets in the latest display of anger at President Viktor Yanukovich’s rejection of closer ties with Europe in preference with Russia, here in Seattle, in a marvellous juxtaposition, they were venerating the one and only US public statue of the Bolshevik totalitarian dictator by bedecking it with Christmas lights.

 

You can find this larger-than-life (all 7 tons of it), controversial bronze rendering of Lenin as he glares down at you from his corner perch in the funky, free-thinking beatnik Republic of Fremont, just across from the old Doric Masonic Lodge (they cater for all tastes in Fremont!). The statue was created by Emil Venkov, a Slavic artist, and installed in his home-town of Poprad, in 1988. But just a year later, Lewis Carpenter, an American veteran teaching in Poprad, found the sculpture – much like in Kiev right now – lying face down after it was toppled during the 1989 Revolution that witnessed the breakup of the Soviet Union.  Carpenter mortgaged his Issaquah home so he could bring it back home to sell. He died in 1994 but the family now owns the statue and its still placed there temporarily for view and sale (offers of around $150k and a good home – would make an ideal Christmas gift!), both to fulfil Carpenter’s dream – that the work be seen and enjoyed and eventually find a permanent home – and to serve as a reminder of an important period of history.

 

And with Fremont being Fremont, each Christmas – in a move that would make this non-believer turn in his glass box back in Mother Russia –  old Lennie gets into the spirit of things by being decked out in lights and seasonal trimmings. And there’s no truth in the rumour that, during this time of the year, and in keeping with the spirit of almost round-the-clock showings of It’s A Wonderful Life, if you hear a bell ringing beside the statue then a (Friedrich) Engels gets his wings.

 

Leica M7 & 35mm Summicron
Fuji Velvia 50
f5.6/12 seconds
Color Processing & scanning by Panda Lab

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