Cat Visits EMP

September 2000

This article originally appeared on the late Lew Tebbets' site,

Click an image to view large size version.

Friend Frank and I left Vancouver at 8:00 Sunday morning, August 27th for our Seattle Adventure. As we drove towards the border, Frank observed, "Simpsons clouds." They did look amazingly like the clouds that part at the beginning of every Simpsons episode. Would we have as much fun as the Simpsons do on their weekly Sunday adventures?

First, must cross the border into the alien country. I had my driver's license out, to show the border guards, but not Frank who had never been asked for ID at the border before. Things were different this time, no doubt caused by my presence in the car.

"Where are you going?" Mr. Border Guard wanted to know.
"Museum," offered Frank.
"Baseball game," I contributed.
"Whose car is it?" wondered the guard.

Was it Frank, the straight-looking driver, or that weird looking character in the passenger seat.

"My wife's car," Frank told the guard.
"Open the trunk," the guard insisted.
To his surprise, no terrorists were found in the trunk, and we were let through. I was relieved. I'd finished my tuna sandwich before we got to the border. Don't want to start another Fish war.

We listened to Firesign's Boom Dot Bust and my Neal Amid and Firesign's Give Me Immortality Or Give Me Death on the way home.

The sky grew increasingly dark as we approached Seattle. I had brought shades and sun screen but no umbrella.This was beginning to worry me. We found free parking not too far from the museum and made our way towards its obviousness.

The Experience Music Project stares at you and yells, "Hey, Look at Me! I'm architecture." We couldn't argue. Enough colours and shapes to evoke the word "psychedelic" and at least the memory of the era of Jimi Hendrix.

Sheets of gold (Hendrix was well paid for his tunes) and the clouds reflected in yellowish-pink metal. A tribute to all those anti-war tunes of the era - certainly Jimi's Star Spangled Woodstock eruption.The blue part of the roof mirrored the sky with its deep blue hue. Inside, we were relieved of our packs, in order to be outfitted with heavy tape-recorder-type devices we had to schlep around. Although I had reserved tickets, we still had to stand in line to get turned into cyborgs. It was still 10:30 and our reservations were for 11:00 but they let us in anyway. Oh great, more time to spend in the museum before the ball game this afternoon. I had spent some time at the EMP Live website and had the idea we were about to enter a brave new dimension of museum experiences. Well, hype is there to be believed. Paul Allen can certainly afford to revolutionize the museum. The machines we were burdened with were so complex, we had to line up for lessons in how to use them. Then we were sent on our way to the Sky Church, basically just a big screen, with images flashing in time to the music. Good music, good images, but ... Well, it was just the beginning. We had maps and the machines enwrapping our bodies were supposed to clue us in to a world of wonders.

Much of the interior exhibits reminded me of a series on A&E called "Rock Legends" I'd seen the previous week. Only you get more information in an hour show about, for example, Janis Joplin, than you do in a two-minute tape you listen to while admiring pictures of her.

It was a groove to see the actual lyrics to Mr.Tambourine Man, with Dylan's written changes on top of the typed lyrics, but the A&E Dylan bio was better. Lots of Rock history on display, but not as entertaining as the TV bio of Sam Philips. Lots of history of Seattle bands, which may indeed interest a native of Seattle.

Another room had instruments you could play and recording devices you could tweak to pretend you were George Martin. The Vancouver science museum has pretty much the same stuff, and the entrance fee is in Canadian dollars.

There was a 45-minute line up to get into something we figured wouldn't be worth it. Perhaps we were wrong, but what we'd seen thus far wasn't inspiring. A museum supposedly dedicated to Hendrix thankfully had a small room to watch Hendrix performance footage with the sort of acoustics you'd expect. It was nice to sit down and rest the bulky machines. After a short while aiming my remote control device at the appropriate exhibits, I'd pretty much stopped using the EMP Wonder Machine and just read the signs at each exhibit. Even in the dim light, the signs were readable to my weak eyes.

Downstairs, a room full of computers offered another place to sit down. This was the museum that Microsoft built, after all. But the computers offered no more than you'd get at home searching the web for the same information.

Pictures and bios of musicians, their concert posters and such. Why put in a museum what anyone can get at home for free?

The best exhibit for me was the room dedicated to Gehry and how he built the museum. Better than a room dedicated to Paul Allen. At least architecture demands physical interactivity, not just staring at a screen. Perhaps we missed the best part of the museum by not going on the Artist's Journey with its 45-minute wait. Frank described the Experience we had as a mile wide, an inch thick.

I was afraid we'd exit in the rain, but instead, the sun was shining. We walked over to the Space Needle, where I had dined with my parents at the World's Fair in 1962, and Bit and her boyfriend Dino had dined in some recent year. No dining for us- just a cab ride to the ball park, another architectural triumph. The game was sold out, the Mariners are in 1st and playing the White Sox, also in first in their division. The view of Seattle from the park's various vistas was spectacular, a match for the museum in visual interest and shifting colours. Gone were the gray skies. The Simpsons' sky reigned instead. We wound our way to our aerie at the top.

Looking down at the field, the grass appeared to be plaid, like waves that ripple in the sunlight and duplicate that liquid motion.

The bright white-uniformed players look like islands in the green sea. Being up so high in the stands lets one know more about eagles than anyone should have to.

In the middle of the stands, a large hole - like an immense TV screen - through which you could see the green city outside. The first time you notice a train going by the stadium, it starts as a charm, and ends as a din.

A good close game. The locals lost but cared about it a lot. Will probably play these same White Sox in the playoffs. I didn't mind a team I'd celebrated in Neal Amid winning. Getting off on the waving grass plaid field, the player islands, the balls looping in weird circles here and there, but never near our peak. Two girls sitting next to me appeared to be Bit's age and their use of "like" every sentence and discussions of their various dates could have been an overheard conversation of Bit and her friends. The difference being these girls really knew the Mariners and the game. Bit only knew enough not to piss off guys she liked who really were interested in baseball. Getting out of the stadium reminded me of navigating Tokyo subways at rush hour. Once out, we walked over to the Elliott Bay Book Company, my favourite book store in Seattle. Had some beverages in the basement cafe and bought a great book, Dreamtoons, that fit perfectly with the dream-like day.

When we got back to our car, we drove over to the university. I had never been there before. Frank once lived in Italy, and remarked on how profoundly Italian the university looked. The whole city was a visual feast that day.

The Seattlites too dressed like Vancouver folks - not a suit to be seen anywhere. Seattle is like Vancouver in the same way spoken Korean is to Japanese to my ear: very familiar, but suddenly - Other!

On our way back to the border, we stopped and bought flowers to leave at the plaque just before the customs booths. When I bought flowers, I was drawn to the bright yellow ones, so bought about twenty of them, then one pink and one orange flower: one for Bit and one for Kim. Frank also bought some flowers. Maybe it was a sense of Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement, that had finally caught up to us after decades with our Japanese wives.

The traffic was heavy approaching the border, and we got to the plaque about 8:30, twelve hours after we'd first come through the other side. At the plaque there were many flowers planted by the Peace Arch park groundskeepers, but no Offered cut flowers until ours. Lots of birdshit on the plaque. I cleaned it off. It was worth driving all the way to Seattle and back just to be in that spot and be able to perform that task.

Yeah, the Mariners could have won and the museum could have been better within, but its exterior strained my visual capacity. The whole day had a dreamlike beauty. Two days later, on Tuesday,The Vancouver Province featured an article that began, "Cat Simril Ishikawa is going to a U.S. court today in the hope of finding the justice for his dead daughter that he says was denied in B.C."

Actually it was only legal paper work going to that Seattle court, not me personally. The rest of the week friends and other media folk called and were surprised I wasn't in Seattle. That I had been there two days before my presence was reported in the paper seems an incongruity.

Someone else's dream.

- Cat Simril

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