Thursday, June 4, 2020

Home Dry Home

Dear Diary,

Today I finished visiting the nearby parks with water fountains.  For some I had more specific goals, but in general I wanted to get up to date on their water fountains and, where applicable, their restrooms, and also wanted to take some pictures.

The only change since the last time I did this is one I've taken for granted, in writing in you, for weeks, dear Diary.  This is that the restrooms in upper Ravenna Park have gone from usually locked, sometimes open 24 hours, to normal park restrooms, open reasonably early, closed far too early.  Otherwise, the three remaining locked restrooms (in Cowen and Magnuson Parks and in University Playground) remain locked, all the rest are open, and hardly any water fountains are running.

The first day, I got up and went, as usual,to

Burke-Gilman Playground Park

This is a smallish park (7 acres) which is nevertheless in three parts.  The one I've focused on has the restrooms (open) and water fountain (running; my main water source for the past two months) as well as a playground and the "neat stuff" I've posted pictures of already.  This time I wanted to replace the "door shots" that early in you, dear Diary, provided evidence of restrooms open or closed, with shots meant to document how much privacy the men's rooms' users could expect.  BGPP is by this standard mediocre:  the only toilet stall has a heavy door which stays closed when pulled to, but can't be latched, let alone locked; there's no sign the existing door ever had such features.
The men's room also is still out of soap; it's now been over a week.

I also wanted to flip my previous standard for "neat stuff", that it be near the restrooms.  So I looked for "neat stuff" elsewhere, and in BGPP that means the other two parts.  This park has a ravine:
which is actually where I first looked for the restrooms, even though its trail is gravel.  So this park also taught me what I wrote a while ago, that parks normally don't try to hide their plumbing.

After breakfast, I travelled on

The Burke-Gilman Trail

I normally don't mention this, but it is in fact technically a Seattle park, and as I mentioned some time ago, it does have a (badly damaged) water fountain that I've photographed several times already.  Here's yet another:
Someone has tried to console the thirsty with candy.

I usually turn shortlybafter this fountain to go to Safeway (yes, the one that was attacked two days ago, though I didn't know that then).  From there I took 45th to

Laurelhurst Community Center and Playfield

This park is twice the size of BGPP and much more sports-oriented.  The restrooms are built into the community center, but open to the outside; they have many little features more typical of building than of field restrooms, of which the most important by far is that the sinks give hot water.  The two rooms are single-user and all-gender.  They have two visible locking mechanisms.  The one that looks like a deadbolt does nothing; I don't know whether the one included in the latch works, or whether these doors latch but don't lock.

The three water fountains are near the tennis courts and behind the two baseball diamonds.  I've yet to find any of them running.

At the far end of the park from the restrooms is a bridge, whose whole purpose, I suspect, is to allow kids from Laurelhurst Elementary to reach the park without crossing a street:

After eating lunch and (ah, luxury) washing my deli container, I took that bridge to 47th Ave, and that north to Sand Point Way, which I left at 65th for

Magnuson Park

This is one of Seattle's largest parks, though the effect is a little vitiated by its northwestern part being heavily built up.  It has three existing pairs of restrooms, a derelict building that used to host another pair, and three spots where an old map claims restrooms once were.  Here I failed to find "neat stuff" far from the restrooms.  I thought of Promontory Point, but it's actually pretty dull, except for its views of Lake Washington:
which of course also exists close to the "beach" restrooms.

North along the shore from the Point, the derelict restroom building's leak has been stopped.  The water thus saved has not been put into any of the park's four water fountains known to me.

Further north are the beach restrooms.  The stalls in these (I ventured to glance into the women's room) look like they had doors, which have been removed.  The dryer in the men's room still doesn't work.

My other failure to find "neat stuff" far from these restrooms is "Fin Art", a sculpture field (by John T. Young) mainly north of them, but reaching far enough south to be seen from them:
Going west on the Cross Park Trail, we get to the central restrooms.  I see no evidence that the stalls in the men's room here ever had doors:
Further west, near the entrance, is another set, still locked:

I recently compiled a list of North Seattle community centers, and was surprised to have ignored one in Magnuson Park.  It turns out to have been the building those restrooms are in, "The Brig", so although I didn't know it was officially a community center, I'd already followed my usual procedure, circling it looking for signs of pandemic life, and as usual not finding any.

After some fiddling around, I managed to escape Magnuson Park at 70th St to enter the View Ridge neighbourhood.  This turned out to be a mistake;  that ridge is all too real, and there were several scarily steep blocks.  But eventually, on the ridge's gentler western downslope, I reached

View Ridge Playfield

This is one of three parks I added to this trip so as to make eventually updating the parks further north easier.  None of these three have restrooms, or functioning water fountains.  They aren't core parks for me as the nearer ones are (and Magnuson, because it's the nearest big park to me).  But I didn't want to single them out to get no photos.  So I decided to take one photo of each, from beside its water fountain.  View Ridge Playfield suffers from this because its main water fountain has been removed "to not spread germs", according to women I asked about it, and the one that's left is behind the edge of a baseball diamond's fence:

From there I took 45th Ave to 65th St, then 65th to

Bryant Neighborhood Playground

A little (3 acres) and largely vertical park.  It was a little difficult to find an angle that didn't include people here:

Further along 45th, I eventually reached

Ravenna-Eckstein Park

Another 3-acre park, built around another community center.  This one's only sign of life is that it may be providing free newspapers to the neighbourhood.  The water fountain is behind the building.

I've already told the story of how finishing in one day went down in flames when Ravenna Park's restrooms proved to have closed early.  So the next day (today) I got up and took Sand Point Way to 

Burke-Gilman Playground Park

The third part of this park is sort of a mini-park, all grass and basketball court, that you can see from the Burke-Gilman Trail, on which are these two sculptures by Anna MacDonald:

The words on the first are "Not Yet", the second "Already".

The Burke-Gilman Trail

This time I shot from beside the fountain:
Surprise!  Yes, it is possible to get bored with green.

I take a fairly complicated route to lower

Ravenna Park

This, at fifty acres, is easily the biggest of these except for Magnuson Park.  It comes in three parts:  the lower, which features lots of complicated detail elements from which most of the "neat stuff" I've already photographed have come; the upper, which is on a rather larger scale; and the ravine, photos of which are in the last part of the page titled "Ravennawards".  Both the lower and the upper parts have restrooms that are now normally open by day, and the upper has a working water fountain, with rather hard water.  Both men's rooms have doors that latch and lock:

Also, I was mistaken when I said some time ago that the upper restrooms had no dryers.  Turns out these, which I'd thought maybe controlled since-removed showers,  are old-fashioned but working dryers:
Obviously this time I had to get "neat stuff" from the upper park, and here are two bits.  One is an actual sink in a picnic shelter.  Unfortunately it isn't on, perhaps because picnics aren't currently allowed, perhaps because it isn't sink season?
The other is a century-old bridge, for 20th Ave over Ravenna Creek, that's on the National Register of Historic Places:

Whew.  Across that bridge and on via 62nd St and 15th Ave to

Cowen Park

I've complained already about this park's gravel and stairs, and grudgingly admitted a couple of things would have been neat if they'd been in "a more reasonable park".  Here's an example far from the restrooms:
You probably can't tell, but this notice board balances better than most park notice boards the demands of the present - to the right, which I apparently failed to include (the sun's angle made this shot hard), are three 2020 notices - with the weird insistence park notice boards have on preserving past ephemera - here including at least one sign from 2012.  If it could be reached on pavement, it'd be pretty neat.

Cowen Park also has one thing I have to admit is cool enough to be neat even where it is.  This is a sort of low-risk thrill-ride version of a swing.  It doesn't photograph well, unfortunately, but I tried it today and found it scary fun.

Cowen Park's restrooms remain locked.  I don't remember their having the discernibly latchable and lockable stall doors they have now, but we've already established (at the start of "Ravennawards") that my memory for restroom doors is unreliable.

I noticed, this time, evidence of a ventilation system in the building, further mystifying me as to why Cowen Park's restrooms are seasonal.

On by a complicated route (these two parks are linked as near each other and both with closed restrooms, but they're actually pretty far apart for "near") to

University Playground

Here, again, the restrooms remain locked, not that my photo can prove that:
And the water fountain remains shut off.  As at Albert Davis Park in Lake City, the homeless people camping here have put some space between themselves.  (I haven't been ignoring encampments in the other parks in this post; I haven't noticed any.)  That said, while this park is over twice as big as Albert Davis Park, it is, at less than three acres, the smallest so far in this page, and I really don't know of any "neat stuff" I haven't already pointed out.  So let me instead correct mistakes I then made.  I should have named Richard Beyer as the sculptor of this:
and should also have noted that the artist intended it as Sasquatch, not a troll (though to my eye he actually made a troll). To my surprise, this sculpture has its own Wikipedia article.

Finally, straight down 8th Ave to 

Christie Park

This small park recently doubled in size, which prompted a complete revision.  Apparently the old park had basketball and a water fountain, or at least that's how I now interpret the parks department's web page on the park.  The new park, according to two men I found working there today, will not include a water fountain.  I'm very impressed by how much progress the work,has made since my last visit, not so long ago; the park will probably open before, dear Diary, I finish writing you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Two Hours and Two Hours

Dear Diary,

I was hoping today to update you on the local parks, but I should've known better:  even on days when I've started much earlier, I haven't yet managed to get to Magnuson Park and get to University Playground early enough that I can be sure a locked door is really locked, and not just for the night.  But today I could've done all the rest, except...

So instead I'll tell you the story of the evening of the 27th, last Wednesday, and then I'll explain why I also didn't get to Ravenna and Cowen Parks today, and also expound some more on the wisdom of our mayor.  Yes, it all ties together.

I took buses to get back from Maple Leaf Reservoir Park to campus that day, and as I lugged my cart down the steps to the place where I usually charge the phone on which I write in you, dear Diary - as I arrived there, the big clock there told me it was 6:00 P.M.  But before I could even plug the phone in, I was suddenly seized with a pressing need to do Number Two.  So I repacked what little I'd unpacked, lugged the cart back up the steps, and headed for upper Ravenna Park's restrooms.

But there I found one toilet clogged (again), and the other occupied by a guy even more desperate to spend his days inside again than I am; he had set himself up in that stall and would stay as long as he could.  I decided this interpretation might be wrong and I should wait ten minutes, at 6:43 P.M.  In the end I only had patience for five minutes, and left for lower Ravenna at 6:48.  I thought I heard him flush and move while I was barely within hearing range.

I saw a Seattle Parks and Recreation truck as I arrived at lower Ravenna, and felt relieved when it didn't head for the restrooms - but that was because it had just come from them, as a bystander explained when I found the doors locked.  As I trundled away, it was 7:00 P.M.

Next stop, University Village.  It had locked its public restrooms in early April, a few days after I left the last hotel, but had re-opened them a few days before.  Not, however, after 7 P.M.

So I wound up in Safeway hours earlier than usual, to use their beleaguered restroom, buy something to make up for it, and head back uphill to campus.  This time that big clock read 8:18 P.M.

So call that two hours.

I wasn't sure how to write about that, so put it off.  I mean, obviously the strict enforcement of the closing time for Ravenna Park's restrooms must be good for me, or the city wouldn't have done it.  But I just couldn't quite figure out how.

Tonight that's much clearer.  Tonight I found the lower Ravenna Park restrooms locked at 6:27 P.M., the upper likewise at 6:38.  I'm not really quibbling over the half-hour difference.  I'm sure it isn't really that risky to eat supper with sanitizer on your hands.  But it's renewed confirmation that closing time is still 7 P.M., not 9.  And so I finally understand how early restroom closings benefit me.  They're vocabulary lessons.

Let me unpack a bit.  The day I started to write you, dear Diary, I learnt (I thought from Erica C. Barnett, but now am not sure) of a a city restroom list (PDF).  This is, for example, where I got the term "sanican".  Another thing I got from it is that most park restrooms have two sets of hours:  7 A.M. to 7 P.M. normally, but 7 A.M. to 9 P.M. "Peak Season Only".

Now, when I first saw the restrooms in the Laurelhurst Community Center, they had signs on their doors, saying that those doors would be locked at 7:00 P.M. from October through March.  So when I saw the list, I interpreted this as meaning that "peak season" ran from April through September.

Do you remember, dear Diary, how a couple of times I've been "shocked" to find a restroom locked at 7:40 P.M.?  This is why.

So.  There's a seasonal restroom at Magnuson Park that isn't yet open as of today.  I haven't been there for nearly a month, but I bet the seasonal showers and restrooms at Matthews Beach aren't open yet either.  Time is running out for these "seasons".

But in what sense is it not "peak season" for Seattle's parks?  Does peak begin based on the weather?  So last year's cold summer it never happened?  Does it begin when school's out?  Funny, I thought school had been out since March.  Does it begin when parks get crowded?  "Crowded parks lead to closed parks."

In addition, there are emergencies to consider.  King County's executive Dow Constantine and Seattle's then-mayor Ed Murray both declared homelessness an "emergency" in 2015.  These declarations have not yet been revoked.  In addition, everyone in the world has declared COVID-19 an "emergency".  One element of the intersection of these "emergencies" is that unsheltered homeless people like me, and for that matter sheltered ones still put out onto the streets by day, have been told to use parks' restrooms; that is, after all, your entire premise, dear Diary.  Wouldn't you think this double emergency would call for, among other things, rigging every question of "seasons" in our favour?

No, of course not.  Because "emergency" really means "something about which nothing should be done".  Oh, my story implies other benefits.  I've learnt that Number Two may require me to walk miles, and wait hours, so I need much more self-discipline.  If I was right about that guy in upper Ravenna Park, thanks to the other U-District park restrooms being closed, he has more power these days, to monopolise a whole neighbourhood's park restrooms, than he's probably had in years.  These are not small benefits.  But I think the main good thing that arises from it taking me two hours to find a toilet, because the parks are closing two hours earlier than they should, is that it's clarified for me the meaning of "emergency".

State of the local parks, with pictures, tomorrow, dear Diary.  Good night.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Jackson Park Perimeter Trail

Dear Diary,

I was going to tell you the story of the evening of May 27 today, but with the weather so nasty, I'd rather do something more unambiguously cheerful, such as write about a relatively easy and well-documented trail.

Not that it's that well-documented, or I wouldn't write about it at all; it isn't in my core area, and has no plumbing, so why should I care?  Because nobody tells you even the basics of what the trail is like, and, having walked it twice, I think someone should.

Officially, the main attraction of the perimeter trail is that it provides views of the golf course, and it does indeed do so often.  But I'm not that interested in views of golf courses, so I'll focus on the path underfoot and on the views in the other directions.

I started, each time, at 15th Ave and 135th St.  From here, the trail goes along 135th quite a ways.  It's mostly gravel, here; I've parked my cart each time I've walked it.  Other parts of the trail are gravel, dirt, wood (bridges), and even pavement (but that's far ahead).  Looking outward you'll see parked cars, the road, and eventually a divider of shrubbery and/or trees.  This is what's south of you when you pass the trail map near 11th Ave.  Here's someone else's photo of the map.

135th turns into 10th Ave not far from 11th Ave, and goes south.  The trail follows it for a while, even losing the divider briefly, but can't follow it all that long considering we never see the P-Patch; instead the trail gradually curves westward, for the first time opening up real woods on its outer side.

Soon enough, we're probably roughly paralleling 133rd St, going west, but also going downhill, because we soon bridge Thornton Creek.  There are paths right up to the creek's banks.  Beyond the creek, the trail rises again and passes several houses, presumably on 8th Ct.

Next we reach 5th Ave.  This means I-5's traffic noise is pretty much a constant here, but also, currently, Sound Transit is doing a major construction project, presumably light rail.  The entire western side of the trail is within view of the site.  Woods do eventually build up for a time, which turns out to herald another bridge over the creek, and doesn't last all that long thereafter.  The golf course plays a little joke along here, warning trail users to be quiet and not disturb golfers' concentration, as if the highway and builders wouldn't drown out any noise we made.

There's a triangle of woods at the corner of 5th Ave and 145th St, but soon after comes one of the oldest parts of this fairly new trail, what looks just like a regular sidewalk on the south side of 145th from 6th Ave to a spot between 11th and 12th Avenues.  For most of this span, the golf course is high above the trail, so there aren't even those views to take in.

The most complicated and interesting part of the trail comes next, however.  There are woods on both sides of the trail at re-entry into the park, and for much of this distance the golf course's fence is far from the trail.  We go downhill a ways, then walk past 12th Ave, farther than 143rd St.  Up again (the trail's only actual stairs, paved, are here), to a wider woods, especially after 12th ends.  Eventually we're behind houses again.

A left turn then brings us to 15th again, about where a 138th St could have been.  Again we have a paved part of the trail presciently built as if it were a sidewalk long ago.  Much of what's behind the fence here is the part of the driving range that golfers usually aren't in.

Signs throughout the trail have the usual parks boilerplate plus one mysterious declaration:  something like "Hike at your own risk."  Signs above the 135th St parking explain:  The risk is from errant golf balls.  I don't know how often such balls reach the trail, but I didn't see abandoned balls on either trip, so my own guess is that the risk isn't large.

So this is a really rather weird trail, what with its eight or so blocks of sidewalks, the elephant in the room that nobody online has mentioned, but I found it worth walking.

I mentioned that on both overnight trips I slept, poorly, in a bus shelter.  I didn't find the area around Jackson Park at all promising for an unsheltered homeless person.  But several people who've pitched tents in the more wooded areas along the trail evidently have found a way, though for who knows how long.

Dear Diary, I learnt yesterday that a man I knew had died eight weeks before.  So I'm in sort of a fey mood, not helpful to writing.  I have three main plans for the next week:  Tell you about the evening of the 27th; update you on the core parks, including Magnuson; and go to the part of north Seattle where addresses have "N"s, looking for the western boundary, if it exists, of the dry water fountain problem.  But I won't make promises as to which days each of those might happen.  Until then, dear Diary.

Friday, May 29, 2020

South to and from Northgate

Dear Diary,

Last night I mentioned that I filled two bottles from Northacres Park's winter-hardened water fountains on May 27.  I knew this to be a good idea, you see, because I hadn't filled even one bottle at them on May 15, and, wow, did I suffer for that.  There's one more pair of restrooms ahead, open, but not one running water fountain out of only four candidates.

From Northacres Playfield I went, both days, back to 1st Ave, and took it south to 117th St, which passes over I-5 to become another instance of 1st Ave.  My map claims there are several ways to leave this 1st Ave between I-5 and Northgate Way, but I think the only one that's actually open is 116th St, and it was blocked by construction on May 15.  So that day I had to trudge along the edge of a very tedious housing development, getting thirstier all the time, blaming the builders for blocking the exits at 115th and 112th ...  Anyway, I strongly recommend anyone taking this path on foot escape via 116th if at all possible.  In a car, you're stuck with 1st, because there's a stairway in 3rd.  Ultimately you get to

Hubbard Homestead

Visited May 15 and 27; no plumbing

Of course with a name like that I envisioned a historical site, and I was astonished when I got there and realised I was familiar with this history-ignoring park, as you are too if you've caught the Route 41 southward from north of Northgate.  It's basically Northgate North's back yard.  The 3rd Ave end has a skatepark, the 5th Ave one benches and a basketball hoop or two.  In between, a waving field of tallgrass for which a playground is planned, and I can only hope a water fountain too.

Northgate Park

Visited May 15 and 27; one water fountain, not running both times

This is much like Albert Davis Park, sandwiched between a library and a community center, but much bigger, and without (at least both times I visited) campers.  Much of the added space is grassy.

Beaver Pond Natural Area

Visited May 15 and briefly May 27; no plumbing

This is the sacrificial goat of the Thornton Creek system.  It's right across 5th Ave from the mall, and it was never going to be a quiet place to watch undisturbed wild things.  So they built a nice, easy trail, which has four entrances.  The one on 105th St west of 8th Ave doesn't have stairs, but all the others - 104th west of 8th, 104th east of 5th, and 103rd east of 5th - do have stairs.  This trail keeps you at a little distance from the creek, so unsurprisingly I found at least two short probably-unofficial trails that go right up to the banks; one starts behind the bus shelter on 5th near 103rd.  There are reputedly actual beavers.

The Natural Area extends northeast of the trail system, but I've found no entrances or maps, and strongly doubt any plumbing is hidden there.

Victory Creek Park

Visited May 15 for something like an hour, and much more briefly May 27; probably no plumbing

This park confuses me.  It has a sign anmouncing some amenities that have pretty well established meanings in Seattle's park system:
The children's play area should mean at least a little playground equipment, and the picnic area should have at least one picnic table.  But the only thing I found even remotely resembling either of these is, um, this:
What I did find is a small park consisting mostly of yet another creek, with woods around it laced with trails.  Now, I can't imagine that the parks department is lying here, so what can explain this?  I think it's obvious:  The amenities are underground, and I just never found their entrance.  If you wish to explore this possibility, all entrances to the park that I found are from a parking lot at the QFC on Northgate Way.

Another possibility:  That's a fake sign.  Once I saw such a one naming the micro-park at Olive and Denny "Four Car Park".  This one gets the name right but the amenities wrong.  Note the atypical typefaces used.

Anyway, the reason I cared is that in Seattle's parks water fountains are strongly attracted to playgrounds.  So if you ever do find the play area, let me know whether it has one, would you?

Speaking of which, 

Victory Heights Playground

Visited May 15 and 27; one water fountain, not running either time

This is one of two parks in a sort of pocket neighbourhood south of Northgate Way; this one is down 19th Ave from there.  It's next to Victory Heights Cooperative School, and the water fountain is attached to the school building.  The playground equipment has several translucent panels high up, that on sunny days cast beautiful coloured shadows.

Kingfisher Natural Area

Visited, from different angles, May 15 and 27; probably no plumbing

At the address Google gives this one, where 17th Ave turns into 104th St, there's a very obvious trail that runs quite straight down to the creek.  Initially I settled for that, but I started to wonder, and on the 27th decided to use my head start to explore more thoroughly.  I started on 15th Ave, and found at 104th St signs naming the place (absent at the alleged main address) and announcing a trail.  This turned vertical almost immediately, and, fed up with shying away from such trails, I parked the cart and went in.  Some time later - probably a quarter or even half an hour - I found an unofficial exit where another 17th Ave dead ends north of 100th St.  My trail was easy to discern, but it met many other trails, I know of no map, and I think anything from a water fountain to the original Crystal Palace could be hidden here, but probably isn't.  The trail I spent that time on is relatively hard, I was very glad I'd brought my umbrella, and frankly amazed I escaped not covered in mud.  So I promptly gave up on any more thorough exploration.

On the 15th, though confounded by map errors, I managed to exit the neighbourhood of Victory Heights to Lake City Way, took it to 98th St, and then went south on 20th Ave.  This may be the steepest street I've ever climbed, and I can't recommend doing it while pushing a cart and dying of thirst.  Maple Leaf is actually one of Seattle's tallest hills, and our next park faces south from near the peak.

Sacajawea Playground

Visited May 15; no plumbing

This is another park that stretches the meaning of Seattle parks' terminology.  Sacajawea Elementary School, behind the park, has some playground equipment, but the park has none.  It's mostly a grassy indentation in the hillside, surrounded by trees, with one giant tree in the middle.  I saw some teenagers there, but no kids.

Downhill, at 82nd St, we get to the only one of these parks with a restroom.  I took 15th Ave to it on May 15, but on May 27, skipping Sacajawea, went back to Roosevelt before starting south, which was a much more bearable slope.

Maple Leaf Reservoir Park

Visited May 15 and 27; one pair of restrooms, open both times, and one water fountain (I think), not running both times

This isn't actually a very big park, but it seems limitless.  There's a bunch of sport space toward the 14th Ave side, while the Roosevelt side has the playground and restrooms, with the water fountain well hidden north of the latter.  I used the men's room on the 15th and it worked fine.

I also finally got desperate enough that day  to try something I imagine your readers, dear Diary, have probably wondered at my not doing long since:  drinking from the sink.  See, I grew up with a fiberglass hot water heater, which taught me to worry about pipes; I figure if the parks people give us both sinks and water fountains, they must have a reason for doing so.

On the 27th, coming south on Roosevelt, I discovered the park's upstairs, which has yet more sport space plus lots of grass space for future sports or present comtemplation.  I found, however, no plumbing upstairs.  The upstairs does have, on clear days, great views of the city and the mountains; I saw both Mount Rainier and the Cascades.

Both days, I continued down Roosevelt to 75th St (on the 15th buying a can of soda from the Peruvian restaurant on the way).  On the 26th I'd taken a bus to Lake City, my first time taking the cart on one, so on the 27th, after visiting the Safeway there (and using its men's room), I caught a bus back to campus.  On the 15th, however, I was there for a little park hidden on Banner Place south of 75th.

Rainbow Point

Visited May 15; no plumbing

This is a small park nestled between major roads; it basically exists for its views, with plants strategically placed to edit the roads out of those views.  Not a bad place to sit a while.

From there I trudged down Roosevelt to 65th St to cross I-5 for the tour's last park.

NE 60th Street Park

Visited May 15; no plumbing

Since I-5 curves, it repeatedly creates awkward bits of land where it meets grid-pattern streets, and one of those is a small triangular park.  At its north end it's wide enough to look like woods; at its south end it's just a line of trees.  I saw hints at the north end that someone might have lived there.

Then I hiked south to 50th St to re-cross I-5 and head for campus.

So ends my story of May 14 and 15, but there's one more chapter to the May 26 and 27 tale, which I hope to tell tomorrow.  Until then, dear Diary.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Top of the City, Part II

Dear Diary,

Today's page is about four parks - or five if you count as the parks department does - that are all pretty close to each other, and that, taken together, project an image of an almost normal spring in the parks.  Two have no plumbing; in the other two, only one shut-off water fountain attests the current abnormal situation.

They're also all kind of hard to enter, so I'm giving more detailed directions.  They're all between 1st and 15th Avenues and 125th and 145th Streets.

Jackson Park

The parks department's website lists 413 parks.  It does not, however, list among those Jackson Park.  This is partly because it leases much of the park to a private company, Premier Golf.  (So this is the flip side of Nathan Hale Playfield and Cedar Park.)  Sad to say, this private company does a significantly better job of running things than I've found elsewhere in northeast Seattle.  Only two other parks there have all their plumbing working - Burke-Gilman Playground Park and Little Brook Park - and those two have only one or two restrooms and one water fountain each.

Visited May 14, 15, 26 and 27; over four restrooms, at least two pairs open, and at least two water fountains, both running

Jackson Park is, according to the parks department website and signage, two entirely separate not-quite-park entities:  Jackson Park Golf Course and Jackson Park Perimeter Trail.  Both are easiest to enter from 15th Ave, but the actual entrance to the golf course and the most informative entrance to the trail are further west, officially at 10th, actually best reached from 11th Ave and 130th St.  A sign for the trail near that intersection has a map of the trail on its trail-facing back.  As for the golf course, from 11th and 130th look around and identify the most active parking lot.  At that lot's head, you go up a steep incline to reach the main golf course buildings open to the public.

I don't buy the idea that these are two separate non-parks.  For one thing, both have the same official hours, "Dawn to Dusk", which is decidedly non-standard for Seattle parks.  However, all the plumbing is in the golf course.  I found much too little information online about the trail, so when I get the chance, I'll describe it in more detail.  Meanwhile, the golf course.

I didn't visit the course proper, only the cluster of buildings at the top of that hill.  There are essentially three - a cafe, which wasn't open anytime I was there; a shop staffed by professional golfers, so called the "pro shop", the course's nerve centre; and a building supporting a driving range, which is free and open to the public.  Each of these has restrooms.  One pro assured me that all these restrooms are open to the public; another, that no Premier Golf employee would block a well behaved member of the public from them.  I'm unsure anyway about the cafe - aren't restaurants in general still keeping their restrooms closed?  But the driving range has two single-user rooms; the shop's men's room features several toilets, with the usual privacy features so often lacking for park toilets.

I tried the driving range's men's room; it had hot water, believe it or not, but was out of soap that morning, May 27.  (So was BGPP's men's room, for days now.  I take this as a good thing, actually - it implies that parks employees are prioritising getting the rooms open, not getting them perfect - though of course in a better world I wouldn't need to carry hand soap.)

The water fountains I found are side by side between the restrooms at the driving range.  Of course there could be others.  Some talk about how Jackson Park adapted to the coronavirus mentions "restrooms" removed from the course itself, but I'm told these were only, as this implies, "sanican"s.

Licorice Fern Natural Area

Visited May 15; no plumbing

We've already seen with Mock Creek Ravine that individual parts of the Thornton Creek Natural Area can have their own names.  It now turns out you can have nested Natural Areas, as here.  Licorice Fern has, according to Google, not the parks department, an address, and if you go to that address, the dead end of 130th St west of 12th Ave, you find a greensward with two trails leading away.  I followed one, though not far, somewhat shocked by the idea of a trail anywhere near Thornton Creek.  (But wait until tomorrow...)  I found a map online (PDF) later according to which these two trails are the only ones, and excused myself on that basis from exploring further.

Flicker Haven Natural Area

Visited May 15 and 27; no plumbing

This is the current official name of an area south of Jackson Park, or sometimes considered itself the southwest of Jackson Park.  It has also been known as "Thornton Creek Park #1".  I haven't been able to reconcile descriptions of that with what I've found except by assuming the descriptions actually refer to the P-Patch which is in the northern end of what Google Maps thinks of as this park.  That P-Patch is on 10th Ave just north of a notional 130th St, on 10th represented by an overpass.  

The 8th Ave border isn't much more informative.  I couldn't tell whether the dead end of 130th St east of 8th included any public property.  Where 8th Ave turns and becomes 8th Ct, a trail appears, continuing north in the line of 8th Ave until it descends, probably to merge with the Jackson Park Perimeter Trail.

This page has a sort of map, but at least on my phone it doesn't render well.  Evidently people have worked within this area, but I don't know how they entered.

On this trip, I already knew I'd be covering Green Lake and other parks with strictly "N" addresses.  There are only two parks west of I-5 with "NE" addresses; since this next one has restrooms, I decided to cover them in this trip and set of pages.

Northacres Park and Playfield

Visited May 15 and 27; two pairs of restrooms (one all-gender single-user), for openness see below, and three water fountains, two running

This park is both terribly and excellently named.  It's entirely south of Jackson, Little Brook and Cedar Parks, and it's smaller not only than Jackson and Magnuson Parks but also than Ravenna Park and Matthews Beach.  But it still feels like acres, especially along its thickly forested north side, which stretches from I-5 to 1st Ave along 130th St, and it's still pretty far north for most of us.  As for its surname:  in Seattle's park nomenclature, "park" outranks "playfield"; Magnuson Park has a dozen ball fields, but nobody tacks an "and Playfields" onto its name.  This, too, however, makes sense, as I'll explain.

Northacres Park has the less common of the Seattle parks' two usual schedules.  It used to have the more common, and in this photo I can only hope you can see the different schedules on the two signs:

The two schedules are 4 A.M. to 11:30 P.M. (the default) and 6 A.M. to 10 P.M.  I suspect but do not know that the latter is usually thanks to neighbours.  Other parks I've covered that open at 6 are:

Laurelhurst Playfield
Ravenna Park
University Playground

Matthews Beach

Albert Davis Park

The park's official address is on 1st Ave, near a notional 127th St.  There one finds a seemingly ordinary park, with two age-specific playgrounds, a basketball hoop crowded by art, and weird plumbing:  two single-user all-gender restrooms, with two winter-hardened water fountains attached.  The weirdest thing about this not so ordinary park, however, is that in several directions it's surrounded by woods.

I don't remember any issues with the restrooms, which I used on May 15, except that I found them locked.  I'd had little luck calling the parks department weeks earlier, but decided to try again, and not only reached someone, but he got multiple parks employees to come unlock them.  On May 27 I filled two 20-ounce bottles from the water fountains and found it good water.

The guy who actually unlocked the rooms on May 15 represented himself as the boss of the person who'd forgotten to.  He's the one who told me Little Brook's restroom had reopened - he'd done that the same morning.  He wouldn't give me his name, but said he was close to retirement; I'll probably quote him enough to get him in trouble if any of his bosses ever read any of this, but doubt the trouble would be serious.

For now, however, I only need to thank him for pointing me to the playfield, which is in a different clearing in the woods, several blocks away.  This is why "and Playfield" makes sense to me here.  You reach Northacres Playfield by continuing south on 1st Ave, turning left onto 125th St, and turning left again on 3rd Ave.  This is a couple of baseball diamonds, a couple of picnic tables, restrooms and a water fountain; on May 27, without a game going, I found it kind of sad.

That day I used the men's room (which was open on both May 15 and May 27).  It was poor for privacy, but not as bad as Waldo Dahl Playfield or Little Brook Park.  Its sink, however, is of the same design as the one I remember from Cal Anderson Park:  spraying so much water horizontally that it's much better for soaking whatever's in your pockets than for washing your hands.

The water fountain, near but not visibly attached to the restrooms, is not running.  And that returns us to the real world of northeast Seattle's parks in May 2020, the last ten of which I'll discuss in less detail tomorrow.

Top of the City, Part I

Dear Diary,

Exciting but old news for you, I'm afraid.  There are three more parks in northeastern Seattle with both open restrooms and running water fountains, but they're all really far away, and they've all been that way for weeks; I don't know of any newer examples.  So I think I've sort of found the northern boundary of the water fountain desert, but not the eastern boundary.

I visited all the parks between the water, the city limits, I-5, Lake City Way, and 110th St on the 14th and 15th, then re-visited those with restrooms and/or water fountains on the 26th and 27th.  This page covers the ten parks visited on the 14th and, where relevant, the 26th.  I ended up stopping at the same point in each hike, so tomorrow's page will cover the remaining four parks in the northernmost parts of Seattle's northeast.  Finally, Friday I'll talk about ten parks further south in the area.

Outlying Lake City

University Lake Shore Place

Visited only May 14.  (I had to get directions, because both my map and Google Maps make grievous errors around here.)  No plumbing.

Near as I can tell, this is simply a stretch of wooded slope over the Burke-Gilman Trail, just south of 125th St.  There's a bench, but it might belong to the trail rather than this, um, park.  Speaking as someone who's gone through the entire official list of parks, I'm extremely grateful Seattle doesn't own, and separately name, all the wooded slopes over the trail.

NE 130th Street End

Visited only May 14 (same set of directions).  No plumbing.

This is a tiny beach built for the kids of Lake City long ago.  Unfortunately it's now kind of hard for most of them to reach.  There's a stair from 42nd Ave, but 42nd is kind of a world unto itself, with no contact between it and the rest of Lake City between 123rd and 145th Streets.  So the beach is much easier to reach from outside Lake City, via the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Cedar Park

Visited May 14 and 26.  One water fountain, not running either time.

This is an elementary school's playground, on 135th St between 37th and 39th Avenues, open to the public as a park except during recesses.  It appears to work much better than the similar deal over Nathan Hale Playfield.  Most of the people present on my second, mid-afternoon, visit were of elementary school age.  It's basically a playground plus a grassy area, which turns out to be a common design.

Little Brook Park

Visited May 14 and 26.  One restroom, closed May 14, described to me as just reopened May 15, open May 26.  One water fountain, running May 14 but rather more strongly May 26.

Dear Diary, I didn't make a mistake there.  Little Brook Park (formerly known as Lake City Open Space, on 32nd Ave north of 140th St) doesn't have one men's room and one women's, or two all-gender, or two anything.  It has one restroom.  That room is lockable:
but unsurprisingly that deadbolt has been disabled:
This restroom's privacy issues don't end there.  It's ventilated by holes in the walls at top and bottom, and although it took me some work, I was able to take these pictures

of the then-closed room through a bottom hole.  A woman would have to be pretty desperate or pretty stupid to use this room.  I was uncomfortable using it myself yesterday.

The rest of the park seems to be playground plus grassy area, but I didn't look for the namesake creek in or beyond the grass.

Downtown Lake City

Albert Davis Park

Visited May 14th and 26th.  One water fountain, not running either time.

This is a small park sandwiched between the Lake City Community Center (in which I detected no signs of life) and the Lake City branch library.  On my first visit, it was dominated by an encampment of my peers, concentrated on the south side of the park; I saw mostly black people there.  Yesterday the tents were much more spread out (socially distanced) and I saw some white people as well as blacks.  The camp is equipped with two "sanicans" and a hand-washing station.

Lake City Mini Park

Visited May 14 and 26; no plumbing.

This is a sliver of land which on the 14th was dominated by an encampment in which I saw mostly white people.  Yesterday, though it was still crowded with tents, I thought it shrunken, but saw some black people among the whites.  This camp also has two "sanicans" and a hand-washing station.

I talked with one gentleman living there May 14.  He called Little Brook's working water fountain a "treasure" but admitted that the camp's main source of water (or at least his own) was neighbours' outdoor taps.

I want to emphasise this to you, dear Diary.  I often praise our wonderful mayor, but this may well be her masterstroke.  By leaving two water fountains turned off, she simultaneously saves the city money, and converts any number of private citizens into benefactors.  Isn't that heartwarming?

Lake City Memorial Triangle

Visited May 14 and briefly May 26; no plumbing.

If I've correctly identified this, it's a small triangle in front of some buildings, across the street from the previous park.  It's supposedly a memorial for some specific young men who died of violence, but I haven't found any plaques.  It's dominated instead by a gigantic ad for a bank, a very big ad for a VA clinic, and a big ad for a restaurant.

Virgil Flaim Park

Visited May 14 and 26; at least one water fountain, not running either time.

Yes, in case you've been keeping count, that's the other water fountain in downtown Lake City that our wise mayor is keeping off.  This park, probably bigger than the other three downtown parks put together, southwest of them, is largely grassy but includes, besides the playground, a skatepark.  I saw no tents, but many of the vehicles parked near there on the 14th, and some on the 26th, looked inhabited.

There's lots of room at this park for the restrooms Lake City ought to have, which won't fit at Little Brook.


Pinehurst Pocket Park

Visited May 14; no plumbing.

This is a very pleasant park the size of a one-house lot, with various pieces of art.  It's at the corner of 117th St and 19th Ave.

Pinehurst Playfield

Visited May 14 and 26; one water fountain at least, running both times.

This park, on 14th Ave north of 120th St, isn't small, but because it's very steeply sloped, it doesn't feel as big as it actually is.  Besides the requisite baseball diamond it has a basketball half-court, a shelter house (which I doubt has ever included restrooms), and I don't know what-all else.  The water fountain gives good water.  This is where I spent yesterday evening.

I spent the nights of the 14th and 26th in the same bus shelter.

All for today (well, technically yesterday now), dear Diary.  Fewer parks, in more detail, tomorrow.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Going to the Masque of the Dull Death

Dear Diary,

You may have noticed that I'm not writing in you from the usual place this weekend.  This takes some explaining.

You see, I recently broke the one rule homeless people must never break at the University:  I slept on campus.  This is what I was doing when my backpack was stolen, in fact, so I've already been punished.  But also, this has led the University's police to settle a disagreement against me.

See, some people think any time I empty my cart, I'm setting up a camp.  Now a University police officer has explained to me that this is true, and therefore I may not remove my satchels from the cart on campus.

This situation has inconvenienced me, and has also posed some peculiar questions for me:  Does a campsite require an empty cart, or was I automatically camping every time I brought my satchels onto campus without a cart, for years?  If I used a different kind of cart, would that make a difference?

But it's mainly good news.  See, if all it takes to set up a camp is to empty my cart, then obviously when at night I also empty the satchels, and build my bed, I must be doing something much grander:  setting up an ENCAMPMENT.  And that in turn qualifies me to be swept.

Now, in your pages, dear Diary, I've already explained how sweeps can entertain or even ennoble us, so I'm sure you see how this could be good news.  But it's much bigger than that.

Everyone knows that the only way to get housing help in Seattle is to have your grandparents sign you up for it when your parents are born, but this is not actually quite true.  Five categories of homeless people can skip the line.

Two because it's proper:  Veterans can jump ahead, as can parents of small children, and nobody should gainsay them that.

Two because it's practical:  It may not be much comfort for the rest of us, but it does society some good when petty criminals or troublemaking addicts get housed out of turn.

But for most of us, the only serious chance for help is to be swept.  No, really, dear Diary, I know this sounds crazy, but I read it in the newspaper, so it must be true:  Get the attention of a Navigation Team member, and you can get housed.  And since my own encampment is just me, surely I could get their attention if I were to be swept.

So just think of it, dear Diary.  Any time now, I could become just like a normal person, complaining about having to stay inside all the time, instead of complaining, as I do now, about having to stay outside all the time.

This kind of reversal seems characteristic of my life recently, and the case of masks - no, dear Diary, this page's title isn't "bait and switch" - is obviously related.  Many homeless people - many of the sheltered, and most of those unsheltered who sleep in neither tent nor vehicle, like me - Many of us are effectively "in public" all the time.  What does a recommendation to wear masks whenever "in public" mean to us?

I told you some time ago I hadn't worn a mask once.  But I bought one from a profiteer weeks ago, just in case I caught the virus and needed to go to a hospital.  So when the directive came down to wear masks in certain indoor contexts, of course I did as I was told.  But this has made me even more aware of how others see me, when I'm masked, when I'm not.  I got a few days off from the quandary since all my masks were in my backpack, but now I have more, and have started, experimentally, wearing them a bit more.

Friday, the day I got the new masks, I went downtown (Freeway Park's restrooms still closed, water fountains running in Pioneer Square but not in Occidental Square), among other purposes to get the charger that allows me to write in you, dear Diary.  And somewhere downtown I came across a letter blowing in the wind, a letter written by one of my peers.  I got his next of kin's permission to present it in you.

To my friends:

Like most of you, I used to think all these face masks were just the latest craze among the housed, not something we homeless could or should concern ourselves with.  But then I saw an article in The Seattle Times that explained how and why we homeless people should wear them too.

I had to think about it a bit, but finally I concluded that in times that turn grocery workers and pizza delivery guys into heroes, this is our own chance at heroism.  Sure, I'll miss eating and drinking, but it'll only be for a few days, right?

Tell ____ ________ about this, please.  ___ is my next of kin, but hasn't been proud of me for years; now I can finally hold my head high in front of ___ again, at least in spirit.


Something to think about, dear Diary.  I'm going back downtown tomorrow, and then putting new wheels on the cart.  Then I expect to spend a few days visiting parks and telling you all about them.