WHY I LOVE FREMONT, THIS WEEK
by Kirby Lindsay
On Halloween day, I led a group of tourists from China on a general tour of Fremont. In the prep work (for translation purposes) I discovered the organizer’s complete understanding of Fremont boiled down to a) the “naked bicyclists’ parade” and b) art, although she couldn’t define what this meant.
Being so immersed, I take for granted the special attributes and significance of this community. Rather than raving endlessly, perhaps a short narrative walk – on the route I took our visitors – might cause something to resonate.
Start With Chocolate
Up the block from where dinosaur topiaries graze placidly alongside the Lake Union Ship Canal, I started. Theo Chocolate factory tours provide an education in fair trade, organic practices, and free samples. ‘Nuff said, but for the building. From the intersection of 35th Street & Phinney Avenue North, observe the chocolate factory housed in a converted brewery (former home of Red Hook) converted, before that, from a street car maintenance shed. Across the street stands Fremont Studios – a fully functioning production and event facility operating from the (extensively) converted dog food factory – with Bogart and Bergman painted on one wall, along with the screen for the Outdoor Cinema.
Up the street, the group stopped frequently, this being Halloween, to photograph kids in costume, trick-or-treating area businesses. Only I marveled at the grand opening celebration of yet another micro business for Fremont, Gargoyle Beads, and the continually popular mini-restaurant, Flair Taco.
At 36th and Phinney stands a shiny new, mixed-use apartment and retail building. Yet most of 36th Street remains a hodge-podge row of old buildings – one-time houses, factories, a grocery store and a diaper laundry. This visually awkward and inconsistent street-scape is a bursting cornucopia of vibrant, unique and largely independent businesses – including Mishu, where shop keepers had dressed as Cat Lady and a Man-Eating Princess.
At 36th and Evanston Avenue North, I dutifully point out our statue of Lenin (NOT Stalin) and the SPACE art installation, but direct attention to the southwest corner and the glass beads embedded in the sidewalk. Jessica Randall facilitated the art and the designs made by students at B.F. Day Elementary School.
Art, Art and More…Creativity
The Rocket, and the Fremont motto “De Libertas Quirkas” on its side, deserve notice but so does DesteeNation, and the t-shirts they’ve created to immortalize Sunset Bowl, Triangle Lounge and Pizza & Pipes. The Epi Building presents an art feast – finials top the southwest corner, cutouts line the PCC Natural Market patio, ‘Jewelry of Heaven’ climbs one portion, and a metal and glass railing decorates Peet’s.
For tourists, Armin Stepanian, Mayor of Fremont, came up only as the rumored face of the dog of the ‘Waiting for the Interurban’ statue. One of eight Hysterical Markers, this one at Fremont Avenue and 34th, attempts to prove the rumor. Stepanian actually exemplifies Fremont, as does the story of the neon on the Fremont Bridge, and the struggle of the artist, Rodman Miller, to keep it here.
Yet, the orange and blue of the bridge illuminates (most briefly) how this community finds creative resolutions. After a vote, held in 1985, resulted in a tie on whether to repaint the bridge the ‘traditional’ orange or a ‘less obnoxious’ blue, Irene Ingalls created the unusual combination, and a successful compromise.
At the statue of J.P. Patches and Gertrude, doing their eternal Do-si-do, I said goodbye to my visitors. Standing in the shadow of the soaring Aurora Bridge arches, I felt letdown about the paltry glimpse we’d taken. I hope they come back, to further experience the myriad fun, funky and uniquely fabulous facets Fremont offers.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.