Sunday, April 17, 2016


Back in the day, I used to roam broadly over the landscape of Western Washington. Lately, the idea of getting in my car and driving 100+ miles over the course of a morning and into early afternoon is no longer as feasible as it used to be. I've become something of a homebody, rarely going more than 20 miles distant.

However, on Saturday morning I awoke with wanderlust. I had a desire to revisit some of the old haunts down south, so I got up early (actually, I always get up early because of my ravenous cats who  get increasingly frantic for food as the wee hours get less wee), and headed out to adventure.

Soul Fuel

First stop was 8:00 AM mass at Blessed Sacrament in Seattle. It's not my home parish, but I love this church. Blessed Sacrament (B-Sac, to the in crowd), is an old Gothic revival brick-pile that was founded by the Dominican order in 1908. It looks like a Catholic church ought to look. Alas for the iconoclasm of the 1970s that spurred a wave of architectural nullities that are still with us. I'm not sure what the interior of B-Sac looked like 30 years ago, but they completed a renovation in 2003 after incurring damage in the Nisqually earthquake of 2001. My understanding is that the renovation undid most of the desecrations of the 70s. Although the high altar is gone for good, the sanctuary has been tastefully redone and the statues of the saints are all back in their niches. Daily mass there is less intimate than at my home parish of St. Brendan, but it's a nice getaway every now and then.

Road Fuel

Why isn't there one of these in Lynnwood?
After mass I stopped for a nosh at Eltana Bagels. I love this place. It's inconveniently located down in Seattle in the Fremont district where I used to work, so I don't have a lot of opportunity to get there. However, it's just a short drive across the freeway from Blessed Sacrament, so it was the perfect plan. Eltana makes wood-fired bagels that are like nothing else. When I have the chance, I get a poppy-seed bagel with schmear and lox and a cup of coffee. I also buy a bag of bagels to bring home. I'm toying with the idea of a paleo diet, so I've convinced myself that cave-men ate bagels. Otherwise, what's the use?

Brain Fuel

I lived in Tacoma when I first came to Washington (well, I was born here, so that was the first time, but I'd been away for 27 years). Tacoma Book Center is a magnificent used book dealer nestled right next to the Tacoma Dome. 25 years ago, Tacoma Book Center had a large, large collection of books. Now they have even more. They've built out (and up) more shelf space and filled in a lot of the former pathways that got you around the stacks. I was there last year for the first time in many years as was astounded by the growth in collection and all the new dead-ends.

Just one of many aisles—you could get lost in here
TBC is the kind of place you can spend a day at, but I wasn't planning on being there too long. I managed to amass a pile of books in a short while and decided to get out before my pile got bigger. I was looking for books about the Aztecs, since that's my current hot gaming project. I only bought one, but I got a few serendipitous finds as well. I found a nice hardback edition of the Collins and Lapierre book O Jerusalem! about the battle for the city in 1948. I first read this book in the 70s and have re-read it at some point since. When I went to Jerusalem in '81, it was like the book came alive as I saw all the places mentioned as significant in the fighting; even with a lot of post-1967 renovation, they're all still there. I'm looking forward to reading it again. It's also got me wanting to play the John Hill designed SDC game Jerusalem! again. It's a nice game with an interesting combat/movement system. I have the original zip-lock version of the game. It's been years since I played it, but it remains a favorite in my much-neglected boardgame collection.

What I came to find...
I also found a nifty book which is a horizontal mapping of the Synoptic Gospels. I have a couple books that use a columnar mapping, notably Kurt Aland's classic Synopsis Quattor Evangelium. This book, The Horizontal Line Synopsis of the Gospels, came out in 1975. The author, Reuben Swanson, wanted a better way to see the similarities and differences in the synoptics. Sorting it out in columns is a bit tough on the reader. Swanson spent 10 years mapping the synoptic pericopes with separate sections that use a specific gospel as the main line, rather than basing the comparisons on just one gospel (like Mark). The passages are all in English from the RSV, but in reading the introduction, I discovered that he planned a Greek version of it as well. He only managed to complete one volume, which uses Matthew as the main line of narrative. I went on Amazon immediately and managed to order a used copy for just $8.00.

I passed on a small book on Q, even though I was somewhat intrigued by it. On reflection, I wish I'd picked it up, even though I'm pretty dismissive of the theory and tend toward answers to the synoptic problem that don't use Q as a literary deus ex machina. The biggest problem with the Q theory is that there is zero manuscript evidence for it and zero references to it in early Christian writing. Yet, scholars that write about Q have theorized whole communities based on it and spun off theologies of Q. This book attempts to recreate the Q source by synthesizing and harmonizing the synoptics, along with the obligatory hypothesizing about the role of Q in the early church.

I also found a paperback copy of Hugh Thomas' Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes, and the Fall of Old Mexico. I tend to eschew paperbacks, especially if they're thick tomes: the perfect binding method does not lend itself well to thick books. I passed on it, but it got me wanting to find a hardback copy.

Toy Fuel

After Tacoma Book Center, I went down South Tacoma Way through Historic South Tacoma™ to the Game Matrix. En route, I passed the location of the old Tacoma American Eagles. The location is still vacant after all these years—or at least appears to be. The store name on the awning is painted out and the windows are shuttered. It's sad to see a place that was once a major hub of the Seattle-Tacoma area gaming activity become a wasteland.

I got to the Game Matrix just after it opened for the day. I ran into Dale Mickel and Al Rivers who were waiting for Gary Greiss to show up so they could play some Lion Rampant. We chatted for a while about various things, including our cats (and Dale's dogs). I was tempted to stay and play, but I wanted to complete my wanderings and get home before too late in the day. I picked up some Vallejo Model Color paints and headed back north.

More Brain Fuel

At this point I waffled a bit about what to do. At Eltana bagels that morning, my though was to come back for lunch at the Pacific Inn, which is just down the street from Eltana. I used to go to the PI when I worked in Fremont first at Adobe. It was a favorite after work haunt later when I was a consultant at Sakson and Taylor just around the corner from it. The PI is, to put the best possible face on it, a dive. Everything about it is aged and dodgy. They do, however, pull a mean tap and the fish and chips are the best in the world. Truly. Also, across the street from the PI is Seattle Book Center. This is another old haunt of mine, though it's minuscule compared to the Tacoma Book Center. Sea Ocean Book Berth, a used book store specializing in nautical books, is also there, although, Chris, the owner, now an ancient mariner himself, is not often around much. SOBB had a nice collection of naval military history books, which has been moved to SBC.

However, to make that trip would route me back home the same way I came and I had stops east of Lake Washington to make. So, I forewent my fish and chips and pint of Manny's at PI and headed to Auburn for a stop at Comstock's Bindery and Bookshop. Comstock's is a great place for used military history books. The owner, David Comstock, is a devotee and has a massive collection of books, mostly WW2 and later, but has special sections for aviation and naval that are terrific. I bet on finding my hardback copy of Conquest there and I was not disappointed. Comstock's is much smaller than TBC, which boasts 500,000 volumes on site, but it has developed into the same crowded space. Passageways between stacks are now blocked up by more shelves and books are stacked behind other stacks. It's a place that rewards patient searching and I've never failed to leave without a stack of books in my arms. But, having found what I came for, I browsed around just briefly and made my single purchase. David Comstock is getting on in years and shows it. He was never young in my experience, having a shock of white hair drawn back in a ponytail 25 years ago, but he looked the eyes of age on Saturday.

On my way out of Auburn, I got off the beaten track after making a wrong turn. I went by Emerald Downs race track and got stuck at a rail crossing while a BNSF train a mile long slowly crawled by. I didn't really mind. It's nice to get onto the off roads once in a while. Most of the valley is a place I drive through on 167, but it has a rural charm that you miss while blasting through at 70 mph on the highway.

A lovely day for trainspotting
I get apprehensive about places like Comstock's, Tacoma Book Center, Seattle Book Center, Sea Ocean Book Berth, etc. The proprietors are all old and aging. I wonder what will become of their bookstores once they've retired or passed away (likely the later, since, unlike old soldiers, old used book dealers never fade away, they just die.) Comstock's ex-wife Anita, who appears to be younger than him, might carry on (she's the co-owner), but she's never had an affinity for the military books. In fact, the store is roughly divided between David's military books (70%)  and Anita's literature and poetry (30%).

Comstock's also once had a feline population. There was always a cat or two lounging about. Anita told me they're all dead now, even though the cat furniture is still there.

Gut Fuel
Having completed my book purchases for the day, I headed north on 167 to I-405, to 520, to Redmond where I stopped in at BJs Brew Pub for a burger, fries, and a black and tan. BJs is a nice chain-style brew pub. The food is good and they have an amazing variety. The beer is also good. I'd had a hankering for a BJs house burger, so it was no loss to go that route rather than the fish and chips at PI.

BJs is in the Redmond Town Center mall, so after lunch I stopped at Uncle's Games to get some deck boxes for my Sun of York cards. I've kept the cards for this game in plastic bags up to now, but Uncles sells a lot of deck boxes for CCGs. I picked up a red box (for the Lancastrians) and a white one (for the Yorkists). I haven't boxed the decks yet, so I'm not sure if they'll fit. There's a lot of cards for that game and they're all sleeved.

Postscript: No, they don't fit. I have twice as many cards as I have box to put them in. I'll have to check out getting either two boxes for each deck or a bigger deck box (which they have).

More Toy Fuel
My final stop of the day was at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland. I've been slowly clearing out the remains of John's stock of The Assualt Group Aztecs and Tlaxcalans. I picked up three packs of Tlaxcalans: a crane banner group, a vine banner group, and some warriors with macahuitals. I chatted with John for a while and then back home around 3:00 to confront the cats, who couldn't get fed fast enough.

I didn't track the mileage, but I must have put on 130 miles round trip as I circumnavigated Lake Washington for the day. It was a nice trip and I'll have to do it again soon. It's been too long since I let the day take me where it will.


  1. Some real bookstores, wow. I'm sorry to hear about the feline proprietors of Comstock's - I have not been down that way in a decade or more.

  2. I really enjoyed following your day out,thanks for posting it for us.