When it comes to Seattle, it seems like an increasing number of my sketches and posts are about things that are going away…or already gone. I already can’t keep up with my “wishlist” of sketch destinations—but in the fastest-growing city in the country, my race to draw disappearing things is a constant losing battle. By the time I got around to Linc’s Tackle, I knew it was on its way out. Sure enough, if you drive by there now you’ll find an empty storefront. In a year, you might find a shiny nondescript condo building.
Linc’s was far more than something that made me smile whenever I passed it (“Let’s get ready for squid fishing!”). It was an institution: a multi-generation, family-owned business begun by immigrants—that classic American-dream story. Originally called Togo’s Tackle, its owner, Linc Beppu, was imprisoned with his family at the Camp Minidoka internment camp during World War II. The Beppus were among the few Japanese-American families to return to xenophobic Seattle after the war. They reopened their tackle shop with a new name: Linc’s. Jerry Beppu, Linc’s son, has run the shop since his dad’s retirement—he himself retired at the end of last year and sold the building.
I’ll never fault anyone for retiring after a lifetime of hard work. Yet the city I love seems to be retiring, as well. Linc’s was one of the countless tiny touchstones that make Seattle…Seattle. Those little cultural clues, the last remnants of Old Seattle, are disappearing one-by-one.
This, perhaps more than anything else, is why I keep sketching—why I keep telling these stories. And maybe on some subconscious level, this is why I make all my drawings in ink and watercolor. After all, pen and paint aren’t so easy to erase.
Speaking of pescetarian signage, nothing beats this little beauty, tucked away in the back end of the Pike Place Market. The Market is chock full of fabulous and fishy neon, which I’ve sketched multiple times, but I just keep coming back to this one, hanging out by itself and telling you all you really need to know about a fish market.
As you already know, I’m a big fan of francophone lobsters. Well, just down the street from the world’s largest homard is this lobsta joint, complete with excellent French lettering.
Not to be outdone by its Canadian cousin, New England’s got some great lobster neon, as well. In Kittery, Maine, just across the Piscataqua from Portsmouth, NH (home of that other bit of vintage nautical neon), is one of my favorite sea-creature signs. But I have to admit, I took a bit of artistic license with this one: I happen to have an old menu from Warren’s and the design of that thing puts even its own sign to shame. So I replaced certain bits of the sketch with some of my favorite elements from the menu.
(I should get my Artistic License laminated and keep it in my wallet—because I’m not afraid to use it!)
Speaking of underwater sights, if only the Ballard fish ladder had mermaids in it. Good thing I got to visit Weeki Wachee Springs a few weeks ago! Now I’m spoiled—I fear Weeki Wachee may have ruined roadside attractions for me forever. I mean really—no matter how seedy and pathetic a tourist trap might be (and I’m sorry to say there were aspects of this place that were), anything with mermaid performers is an instant winner in my book.
There were two little girls sitting next to me, and when I looked over to add them to my sketch, I had to smile. When I was their age, I was totally into mermaids (I was eight when Disney released its famous fishy juggernaut of a feature)—if I had been to Weeki Wachee at that age, I probably would have thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Even at the ripe old age of 33, it wasn’t hard for me to look past the shabbiness and ho-made production values and find a little mermaid magic to love.
One of my favorite walking routes in Seattle takes me across the Ballard Locks. There’s a lot to see there, particularly if you’re interested in watching all the fishing boats head in and out of the locks. But the best part, for me, is the fish ladder at the far end of the complex, which allows spawning salmon to make the transition (both in elevation and salinity) from saltwater to freshwater. There’s an underwater viewing platform down there, and if you go at the right time of year you’ll see a veritable boatload of salmon behind the glass.
I like to go in August or September, when you can find a mix of salmon species (coho, chinook, sockeye, etc.), but I’m told that now is the time of year to see steelhead trout making the same trek. So if you’re local, grab your sketchbook (and your umbrella!) and see what you might find.
A June day at Alki doesn’t tend to provide the summer warmth you might find at a beach outside of the Northwest—but even in the chilly overcast air, there’s nothing better or more summery than a basket of fried clams and hot chips.
When I lived in Minnesota, people used to tell me hair-raising stories of going fishing “Up Nort'” for muskellunge, and catching specimens that measured in feet, rather than inches. It’s no surprise the muskie is the stuff of legends—but imagine my delight when, without even stepping foot in a boat, the Tailor and I “caught” an absolute whopper!