Friday Fish Wrap 6.14.19

Five things worth knowing this week

1 – Garden Tour and the Marvels of Mukai. All we need is you!

Please support the 29thedition of the Vashon Garden Tour. Hundreds of volunteers, thousands of hours of work, and the financial support of our island businesses go into bringing this beloved event to life. All we need now is you!

There are so many things to love about the upcoming Garden Tour . . . if somehow you’ve missed it, the 29th edition kicks-off with a gala dinner Friday night, June 21 and then fully commences June 22 and 23, 10:00 AM each day.

The garden tour is truly a celebration of the many ways we steward our little island in the Salish Sea.  On display are lovingly curated gardens featuring native plantings, VCA’s beginning efforts to restore and steward our meadow east of our parking lot, two trails maintained by Land Trust, and of some considerable significance, the unveiling of a breathtaking restoration of the historically important Mukai gardens and farm house.

I have been on the property many, many times over the past few years and the transformation is really stunning. You’ll be able to view it for years to come, but you only get to see the restoration for the first time once. Right?

So why not make the first time special? You can do that by joining us for a the very first proper meal served on the restored grounds by buying one of the few remaining tickets to our Garden Gala.

Or if a fabulous dinner isn’t your thing, why not buy lots of tickets for you and your friends and start your garden tour weekend at the historic Mukai Farm and Gardens (the picture taking will be best in the morning).

To help get you in the historical mood, I went by this week and photographed the nearly done gardens in black and white.  Enjoy!

Get your tickets here. Please.

2 – You gotta come hear O’Brother

I had a chance to chat with Jon Whalen, the man behind for a clever original work built on the soundtrack of the Cohen Brother’s hit movie, O Brother Where Art Though! (a favorite).

Written as a play, the show is set as an audition for a fictional, future production on Vashon Island of Oh Brother Where Art Thou.  The production features various island performers and their renditions of songs made famous in the soundtrack from the movie. Some of the arrangements are traditional to the soundtrack, others will be original arrangements. Dotted with foolery and some Vashon-centric lore, the story breathes some fresh air into the music.

Here’s what else you need to know.

Me: What brought you to Vashon?

Jon: Family issues encouraged us to look for a new location, change things up from Seattle proper.  Vashon was the second option, first choice.

Me: Say some things about your performative roots.  What got your started?

Jon: It all began in elementary school.  I always was a show-off.  My mom did a kid’s drama group at school and that got me started.  I did lots of musicals in middle, high school and college. Thank goodness for the volunteer teachers and parents and the others that made those productions happen!

Unfortunately, I got turned away from a career as a performer when I auditioned for one professional show in Boston and the director, a young man not much older than myself, laughed at me. That was that, and I never tried again until Vashon in 2001.

Music was something else. Rock and roll! From 1985 to present, I was always in a band; always making/writing music.

In 2009 I joined the Holy Roller Radio Players for Church of Great Rain and had a blast.  It was the vast and brilliant talent and drive on the island to make shows happen. During that time, I also saw how people would get tense and hard to work with.  So, I wanted to see if I could do a show without that happening. So, I did One Luck Guy and we did ok.

This is my 3rd show, and things are going pretty well as far as I can tell.

Me: What was your inspiration / vision for O’ Brother?

Jon: The music first and foremost . . . which would mean nothing without all of the talented people here on Vashon.

This island does showcases of various artist or musical themes a couple times a year. They are a lot of fun and give the community a chance to play for each other.  I wanted to add a vehicle and a little more local flavor to the mix, and so I wrote what is basically one long sketch, rather than a typical play or musical.

It’s a “one day audition for a fictional production of “O Brother Where Art Thou?” Every performer in the show lives here on-island and has lived the experience of the story so there’s some authenticity to the show through that.

Me: Is there a good story about putting this production together?  Something fun or funny?

Jon: The funny is that I’m setting the show in the present day, but many of the cast were itchin’ to get their O Brother… on.  With overalls, gingham dresses, bonnets, and shit-kickers, I had to disappoint them.

The fun is watching all of the musical numbers come together so wonderfully!  Everyone is working really hard on their own, and I just show up and hear the fruits of their efforts.  The finale is a sing-along!

Me: Anything else we should know?

Jon: Bourbon!  Along with the usual refreshments in the lobby, there will be Father’s Day Bourbon cocktails or mock-tails (non-alcohol.)  We will be serving Kentucky Mules: Ginger Beer, Lime Juice and ice plus neat or on-the-rocks.  Delicious and a great way to kick off the show on a warm, June afternoon!  See you all at 6:00!

Buy lots of tickets to the fabulous event here.

3 – Last call for Stand and Sway

I’ve been listening to a lot of Beth and Ara Lee this past week.  Smitten I am.  I hope you can come. They are awesome singers, songwriters, and people. They would love to sing for you.

But lots of tickets here.

4 – Grieving for Forrest Stewards

Like many of us, I’m grieving the imminent passing of the current instantiation of Vashon Forest Stewards. I use those words cautiously, hoping to add a little prayer there is a next chapter.

I came late to the Forest Stewards fan club, in large part because I came not that long ago to Vashon. I’ve tried to make up for it since.

I first met David Warren at the Vashon Bookshop (wonderful place that it is). I was in search of a print version of Edward Abbey’s classic, Desert Solitaire. David, being David, swept into my view and off we went . . . if you know David, you know what I mean. Along the way, he made me promise to read Brian Doyle’s epic Mink River. Which I did. The universe bent.

My next David adventure revolved around some massive slabs showing up at VCA as part of the 2018 edition of Vashon Summer Arts Fest (2019 starts next month).  You can relive the adventure here.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time (and money) with Forrest Stewards. For example, thanks to a generous donor, we serve art, inspiration, food, and beverages on a truly one-of-a-kind Madrone slab table . . . a worthy edition to our small but inspiring collection of island word artists (Hans Nelson, Tom Northington, James Chesney, Terry Timmons).

As part of the grieving process, David and I have been conspiring with the folks at Vashon Nature Center to honor the land, the forests, and Forrest Stewards by turning some of the last remaining heroic logs and slabs from the log yard into worthy surfaces on which to sit, contemplate, learn, and eat (and rest an elbow).

There is much work ahead of us, but in the meantime, we are like a mini-mini log yard, testifying to the vision and importance of what was and hopefully will be again an important island resource.

Thank you, David!!!

5 – How often are you out and about? Take our Survey (link below)

An article in a recent Beachcomber about the marvelous In and Out exhibit at the Heritage Society noted more than 600 people (I heard 620) had visited on opening night. I’ve heard similar counts for the free Concerts in the Park. And I know how many people come to our building.

This got me wondering . . . how many people actually are out and about on a given weekend?  Or to use fancy words, how many “cultural consumers” do we have on Vashon?

You can understand why figuring that out would be useful. Here in 2019, there are a lot of restaurants looking to serve islanders and guests. Especially on weekends, there is a bounty of entertainment choices on offer in big venues like VCA and O-Space, and smaller settings like Black Cat, Sugar Shack, and more. And during the delightful days of summer, there are long days, long walks, and long cool G&Ts that need attention (not to mention gardening, projects, dinner with friends . . . lots to do!)

So, help us get a sense of who’s out and about on Vashon.  Follow this link to a survey.  It’s anonymous and takes four minutes to complete.  It will help.

Take survey here

6 – Finally, and this is a sixth thing

Octave 9 is Seattle Symphony’s crazy new performance space.

Named in honor of Seattle philanthropists James and Sherry Raisbeck, who gave a $2 million matching challenge to transform the former Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center, Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center redefines how you experience music, art and learning. Through state-of-the-art technology, Octave 9 creates an immersive environment for inventive performances, and Seattle Symphony’s home for education programs and community engagement.

My wife and I were guests in the space the other night to hear one of the final concerts of the maiden season of Octave 9.  I’m decently technical and it’s immediately obvious that they maxed the needle on cool gear.  The ceiling fairly bristles with microphones, speakers, sensors, cameras, projectors, and more.

The music we heard required none of that but was nevertheless interesting and fun. The best piece to my ears was a six-movement piece by legendary American (born in Seattle!) composer William Bolcom called Cakewalk Suite.

I have to confess I knew very little of Bolcom’s work prior to attending the concert.  He’s crazy talented, started composing when he was 11 (he’s now well into his 80s), and works comfortably in a wide range of genres.

Cakewalk Suite samples his talent for Ragtime. Here’s a nice version

Tucked into the suite is probably his best-known Ragtime piece, Graceful Ghost.  I think it’s best played as a piano/violin duet.

I’ve listened to most of the version posted on YouTube. I think this one is the best.

Just as a counterpoint, this version comes from a recital played at The China Conservatory in 2010.  It’s a bit fast, but well done.


Why “Fish Wrap”? Years ago, living in San Francisco, I became a devotee of a legendary journalists named Herb Caen. While he may not have been the first to use the phrase in connection with “yesterday’s news,” he is the one I remember. Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish wrap. Maybe it’s a generational thing. At any rate, we call our Friday wrap up, The Friday Fish Wrap . . . Five things worth knowing about VCA this Friday.

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