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Grocery Store Heroes

Grocery Store Heroes

It’s not hard to be moved close to tears when we hear the myriad stories and see photos of our heroic doctors, nurses, medical technicians, EMTs and all of the hospital support staff who are risking their lives while striving to save ours in the midst of a pandemic that is lethal to so many. How on earth are we ever going to thank them or truly show our appreciation after all this is done? Their efforts and their sacrifices are simply beyond words.

There are others who have also carried on essential work at great personal risk to whom we owe our undying gratitude including public transit drivers, police officers, postal workers and others who have given a new meaning to the term “public service”.

But I would like to say a special word here for our grocery store workers who have served the public faithfully and well and without whom our situation would be dire indeed. They have done so despite often poor pay and the ever present risk of daily public contact that has resulted in an increasing death toll around the country.

For my family special thanks go to the hard working and devoted staff of Ballard Market (part of Town and Country Markets) where we mostly shop but also to PCC, Trader Joe’s, QFC (part of Kroger) and to our local Safeway. But to all the grocery store workers everywhere in the country: Thank you guys for sustaining all of us in this most difficult of times.

What Ballard Looks Like During the Coronavirus Pandemic

What Ballard Looks Like During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Ballard is the neighborhood where I live in Northwest Seattle, Washington that was a sleepy little Scandinavian neighborhood when I moved in. It’s gone through many changes over the past few decades that have made it a destination for Seattleites and for tourists from all over the country and the world. It’s where people go to drink, because there are many great bars and restaurants, plus the world famous Tractor Tavern music venue.

I took a walk through Ballard last weekend to see how the coronavirus shutdown has changed it.

Ballard was a bustling neighborhood with many thriving locally owned businesses, but now they are all hurting because of the severe economic slowdown brought on by the social distancing required to stop the spread of the highly contagious, deadly coronavirus. I can only hope the pandemic soon wanes and that Ballard, Seattle, Washington, and the rest of America and the world can get back to normal. I want all of these businesses to survive, but I don’t think all of them can without some huge help from the state and federal government, and from all the locals pitching in to buy what they can from them when they can.

The Great Recession was about “Too Big to Fail”. This recession is going to be all about “Too Small to Fail”.

Update: While drafting this post last night, I was listening to The Roadhouse with Greg Vandy, the best weekly radio show on KEXP. During his show Greg informed us listeners about You Don’t Bother Me: A Fundraiser For Ballard Ave Music Venues put together by Seattle band, The Cupholders.

This compilation is a fundraiser for the staff of the Ballard Avenue music venues that have been forced to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bartenders, sound technicians & door attendants at Conor Byrne Pub, Hotel Albatross, The Sunset Tavern & The Tractor Tavern are our family and make sure that we as musicians have a place to play as well as build and sustain our community.

To celebrate these noble warriors, all the artists on this compilation have recorded their own version of Casey Ruff’s song “You Don’t Bother Me” a song celebrating friendships, good times and hangovers made on Ballard Avenue

Facebook page here.

Also, there are links in the photo captions to most all of the businesses in the photo gallery, but you’ll need to scroll over the words to see them. Try it!

The number of pubs in the UK is declining but craft breweries are thriving

The number of pubs in the UK is declining but craft breweries are thriving

If there was an endangered species act for national icons, the British pub (or public house) might be on it.

According to the British Beer and Pub Association, since 1982 the number of pubs across the United Kingdom has declined from 68,000 to fewer than 50,000 in 2012, and about 25-30 pubs close every week.

What has brought the venerable British pub low?

The reasons are varied and include sky high real estate prices, which make it more profitable to sell a valuable pub property than continue its operation.

The corporate wheeling and dealing of “pubcos” (corporate pub companies) have also contributed hugely to the diminishing number of pubs. First, pubcos have sold many pubs to pay off corporate debt. Second, they impose restrictive agreements on licensees who manage their pubs which narrow both the range of beers the latter can sell and the profits they can enjoy.

A third problem is that supermarkets can now significantly undercut the price of pub beer.

The good news is that public awareness has been raised by the looming crisis of the disappearing pub and efforts are under way to arrest it. And craft breweries in the UK are booming.

So fear not. Buying good ale in most towns or cities in Britain (and a decent cider too for that matter) remains almost as easy as it is in, well, the thriving Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, home to many craft beer lovers, several fine craft breweries, and, not coincidentally, to some of the contributors to this blog.

Greetings from Ballard SeafoodFest

Greetings from Ballard SeafoodFest

Where you can buy ceramic coffee mugs.

Ballard SeafoodFest coffee mugs

And play bocce ball on Astro Turf laid down over gravel in an empty lot across the street from Bastille Café and Bar.

bocce ball lot at SeafoodFest

And fill up on fried oysters.

seafoodfest fried oysters

Before heading to the beer garden, which is really what SeafoodFest is all about now. Ballard has ten local brewpubs within about a one-mile radius. They were all featured in the lineup of around 50 beers on tap and, if you were lucky to be in the right line, you were served by a Sonic-jersey-wearing, sunburned Viking.

seafoodfest viking bartender

And listen to the local music of The Flavr Blue.

Flavr Blue at SeafoodFest

How to Write a Country Music Song

How to Write a Country Music Song

This morning I drove my kid from Ballard to Woodinville High School for a double header of baseball games that were set to start at 11:00 a.m. The double header was necessary because the game scheduled earlier this month was rained out. Anyway, we got to the home of the Woodinville Falcons at about 9:50 a.m.

Sun was breaking through the clouds here and there, but the forecast called for heavy rains by game time.

The school is just off the highway, up a hill and set amongst some trees that remain from what used to be a forest. Perhaps falcons once lived there. Maybe they still do. (I digress.)

Whoever was manning the P.A. system in the scoring booth was playing country music  during team warm-ups at what even I would describe as a bit too loud for the occasion. I texted Zippy, who was planning on watching the kid play some ball today, to warn him about the music and suggested that perhaps they were playing it loud to irritate the city kids from Ballard.

Zippy and Sporty drove to the school and said they had no trouble finding the baseball field. All they had to do was follow the bad sounds straight to the stands along third base.

As we sat and waited for the umpires to show up (they were in Ballard!) we talked about the lyrics to the songs we were hearing. They all seemed to have a common theme that included the following four subjects:

Drinkin’
Prayin’
Truckin’ and
Fuckin’.

So if you want to make money writing commercially viable country music songs, start writing and, if you can check off the four subjects above for every song you write, you will be successful. At least in Woodinville anyway.

Oh, and both games were rained out.