Monthly Archives: October 2008

A Different Kind of Deja Vu

Please visit the Lake Union Virtual Museum at http://www.lakeunionhistory.orgSaduuts paddling in Lake Union

Saduuts paddling in Lake Union

We all have moments (I hope) when we say, “This is what I live for!”  For me, such a moment comes when I find myself fully in the presence of history; when all signs of the present day fade from my consciousness and I can imagine myself transported back in time.  There is a comfortable feeling that comes with this; a feeling akin to deja vu, yet different: a feeling not that I have been here before, but someone, perhaps an ancestor of mine, has been here or had an experience like this, many years ago.

I was lucky enough to have one of these moments today as I was videotaping a Native American woodcarver named Saduuts paddling a canoe on Lake Union (above).  Saduuts paddled patiently back and forth as I scrambled along the shore with my camcorder and tripod, trying to frame him in ways resembling how early settlers in Seattle might have seen Cheshiahud and other Native Americans on the lake.

Earlier in the afternoon, I interviewed Saduuts on tape as he worked on hewing an ocean-going canoe from an enormous log.  I hope to use this interview and other footage of him in my website on Lake Union history.

Videotaping with Saduuts was a big step toward bringing the Native American perspective to my website.  My next step, if all goes well, will be to videotape one or more members of the Duwamish tribe.  Saduuts is descended from the Haida, a tribe from Canada and the Alaska panhandle, so although he talked eagerly about canoes and wood carving, he deferred to the Duwamish on anything pertaining to local Native history.  Also, Saduuts’ canoe is painted with traditional Haida family markings, so I realized that many of the shots I got today will not be appropriate for illustrating the story of the Duwamish on the lake.

In other news, I spent an hour yesterday in the landscape architecture office of Richard Haag, scanning some of Richard’s personal slides of Gasworks Park.  Richard is in Europe now, lecturing on “Trees in the City,” but he left his slides with an assistant, who kindly helped me scan them.  Thanks to the wonderful cooperation of Richard and his staff, the chapter on the Gasworks will be the first page of my website to go online, just a few weeks from now!

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Gathering Wood

Please visit the Lake Union Virtual Museum at http://www.lakeunionhistory.orgBoat building class at the Center for Wooden Boats

Boat building class at the Center for Wooden Boats

The last few weeks have been filled with meetings, phone calls and emails to set up video interviews and collect archival still photos.  In between these, I’ve continued to wander around Lake Union, gathering more and more of the “wood” from which I’ll be shaping parts of my website: HD footage of the lake’s many activities.

One day I wandered into the boat shop at the Center for Wooden Boats, where I found a group of men intensely making measurements on the skeleton of a boat they were building.  A few minutes later I spied a dog enjoying a leisurely cruise aboard a most unusual water craft: a floating bicycle.

Water bike on Lake Union

Water bike on Lake Union

Today I spent an hour with Richard Haag as he led a group of UW Landscape Architecture students on a tour of Gasworks Park.  It was wonderful to see how the students hung on Richard’s every word, busily scribbling notes as he interspersed technical advice with humorous anecdotes.  After the tour, students asked me to take pictures of them posing with the world-famous landscape architect who designed this park.

Richard Haag with UW Landscape Architecture students

Richard Haag with UW Landscape Architecture students

In the parking lot, Richard opened his trunk and loaned me the first of the artifacts I plan to feature in my Virtual Museum: small objects reproduced in large-scale photos, cut out from their backgrounds and placed on my pages with drop shadows, like objects in a museum display case.  What he handed me was a metal sign he had rescued from one of the demolished gasworks structures.  It reads “FIRE WHISTLE” and originally hung next to an alarm used during the gasworks’ not infrequent fire emergencies.  Richard chose well when I asked him to bring me something that would symbolize the gasworks.  The words on the sign and it’s corroded appearance speak volumes about the toxic, explosive business of making gas from coal.

Metal sign from the old gasworks

Metal sign from the old gasworks

My biggest ongoing effort right now is getting material for a chapter on the Native American presence on Lake Union.  I contacted a descendant of Cheshiahud, the last member of the Duwamish tribe to live on the Lake, and she tentatively agreed to do a video interview next month.  I’m also hoping to find a Native person to do a short video about what life was like on the lake before the coming of white settlers.  I’d love to have this video narrated in Lushootsheet, the traditional language of the local tribes, with English subtitles.  There are barely any people who still speak this language, however, so it will be very exciting if I can actually accomplish this.

Cheshiahud was a canoe carver and often guided canoe trips on the lake, so I’m also going to try to get some modern footage of a Native person paddling a traditional canoe on Lake Union, to help illustrate Cheshiahud’s story.

Cheshiahud and Tleboletsa, last Native residents of Lake Union. Photo from Seattle Historical Society Collection

Cheshiahud and Tleboletsa, last Native residents of Lake Union. Photo from Seattle Historical Society Collection

Gasworks Park Interview

Please visit the Lake Union Virtual Museum at http://www.lakeunionhistory.orgRichard Haag, designer of Gasworks Park, during interview for Lake Union History Website

Richard Haag during interview for Lake Union history website

Richard Haag is the landscape architect who designed Gasworks Park.  Last week he told me he that his schedule was so full of commitments (including an interview for Korean television) that he might not be able to do an interview with me until mid-November.  He said he’d look for an opening, however, and then asked the intriguing question, “How much notice do you need?”

Today I got to answer that question.  At 10:00am I heard these words on the phone: “This is Rich Haag.  Is today the day?”  Breathlessly, I agreed to meet him in Gasworks Park at 3:30.

The weather forecast showed a picture of a sun with raindrops dripping from it.  So I prepared for anything as I loaded my backpack: a reflector to fill in face shadows in case of bright sunlight, two umbrellas in case of rain and a small microphone stand I could use either for a shotgun mic (better than a lavaliere for dampening wind noise) or to mount an arm that holds my sun reflector (or both!).  My pack weighed over 40 pounds when I was done, making for a top-heavy load as I rode my bike to the park.

I arrived a half an hour early to scout a location.  At the appointed time I met a lively, white haired gentleman and led him to the spot I had chosen.  I spent the next hour and a half listening to fascinating stories, including the tale of how he fought City Hall and public opinion to save the old gasworks from destruction and create one of the most unique parks in the world.

It didn’t rain and the wind didn’t blow too hard.  We had to work around noise from seaplanes, UW rowing coaches with megaphones and a man playing beautiful but distracting music on a harp.  Despite all this, I was glad we were doing the interview in the park, rather than Richard’s office.  For a while, an Asian man flew a kite right behind Richard.  Another man stopped by with his son, who had his head buried in a book about the old gasworks, and asked if we could tell them anything about the park.  I was thrilled to be able tell them that they were speaking to the man who designed it.

I plan to put virtually all of today’s interview on my website as an audio archive, while excerpts will be used for a three-minute video at the top of the page on Gasworks Park.

Today was a good day.  This morning I also succeeded in getting in touch with a descendant of “Lake John” Cheslahud, one of the last Duwamish Indians to  live on the lake shore, and made tentative arrangements for an interview in November.  The days are getting getting darker,  but prospects for my project are getting brighter and brighter.

First Interview

Please visit the Lake Union Virtual Museum at http://www.lakeunionhistory.orgDick Wagner at helm of sailboat during interview for website.  WATCH VIDEO EXCERPT

Dick Wagner at helm of sailboat during interview for website.

Yesterday I taped my first interview for two of the 3-minute video documentaries that will be featured on every page of the website: one for the home page and one for the boat building chapter.

This interview was an easy one; it was with Dick Wagner, on whose book Legends of the Lake my website will largely be based.  Dick is always friendly and wonderfully willing to give of his time.  He had the great idea to do the interview for the home page while out sailing on the lake.

Last night I edited a 36-second trailer for the intro video, just to test things out.  I ran into some interesting problems trying to export my Final Cut Pro movie to a 16 x 9 Quicktime movie to put on iWeb.  It kept anamorphising (I think I just made up that word) into 4 x 3 movie that made everything tall and skinny.  I stayed up very late trying every trick I could think of to preserve the aspect ratio.  Finally about four in the morning I discovered that I could import my Quicktime movie into iMovie and then “share” it to a mysterious place called the “Media Browser.”  Dragged from here into iWeb, the 16 x 9 format of my HD movie was preserved.