Friday, June 30, 2017

Time off and Holy Grails

Today started a five-day long holiday for me. Making use of my copious amount of paid time off, I took off today and Monday and joined them with the Independence Day holiday on Tuesday. As with most long holidays I have options paralysis from the get-go.

I puttered about at home this morning, sleeping in until nearly 6:30 a.m.! I would have slumbered longer, but the cats had become incessant in their demands.

The quest for the edible Grail

After about four hours of reading, drinking coffee, annoying the cats, being annoyed by the cats, etc., I decided to get showered and head down to Seattle for lunch at the Pacific Inn, home of the World's Best Fish 'n' Chips.

Dive in to the Pacific Inn
The PI gives a whole new meaning to the word "dive," but they pull a mean pint and serve up The Holy Grail of battered, deep-fried cod. It is, quite simply, the best fish 'n' chips in Seattle—if not the world.

Lunch was quite good, the PI's fish never disappoints, though it was a bit overcooked this time.

The PI is on the edge of Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. I worked down here for years when I was at Adobe and later as a consultant at Aquent. Fremont was once a hippie haven (The People's Republic of Fremont) until Adobe, Getty Images, Google, and some other companies moved offices into the neighborhood. The unavoidable gentrification that followed drove out a lot of the delightfully seedy spots like the old Still Life Cafe, where a heavily pierced and tattooed staff baked and served the best pastries in Seattle. The place is now some kind of yuppie Italian bistro. The horror.

But the PI endures. Most of the buildings around it have been torn down and rebuilt as overpriced foo-foo cafes or boutique businesses. Its shabby, battered facade stands out defiantly from its environment and sustains the neighborhood's tenuous connection to its low-rent past. All the area was once part of the north Lake Union mill and industrial area, which also contained dry docks and repair facilities for seagoing ships. Once very much a working man's haven, the area has been slowly transforming over many years.

It will be a sad day when the PI succumbs to gentrification, either by going out of business or, worse, turning into a remodeled yuppie upscale foo-foo eatery.

A serendipitous Grail discovery

Another delight in the Fremont neighborhood are a few old used bookstores that sit just up a bit and across the street (Stone Way) from the PI. Seattle Book Center had been there forever. "Had" I say, because it is there no more. The owner, John, moved to Colorado where his wife's job was transferred. SBC was a wonderful place and the quality of the used books sold there was superb. All that's left is an out of date Facebook page.

Its place has been taken by Sea Ocean Book Berth, which had been a smaller bookseller two doors up from SBC. The old Sea Ocean Book Berth was a small shop crammed with books about nautical topics. It's always been a favorite place of mine to poke about. The owner, Chris, was as ancient a mariner as Coleridge ever saw. I think he was retired merchant marine. I didn't see him at the new location and didn't ask about him (though I should have). I honestly expected that some day, SOBB would be gone and only SBC would remain. I never imagined it the other way around.

I went into SOBB after lunch to see what was there. It's maybe three times its old size, yet still crammed with nautical books—just not as crammed as before. I passed on several tempting books, but did pick out some 16th c. naval topics: Beeching's The Galleys at Lepanto, Mattingly's The Armada, and G.M. Thomson's bio of Sir Francis Drake.

And then I wandered into the section devoted to naval warfare books and found M.J. Whitley's German Coastal Forces of World War Two. This book was publish 24 years ago by Arms and Armor Press and never got a second printing. I didn't buy it way back then and when I wanted it, it wasn't to be had. Over the last several years, I've look to see if any used bookstore had it. I've searched for it on Abe Books and Amazon to find either no results or results so staggeringly expensive that I turned away in shock. This find wasn't cheap...

The Holy Grail of naval warfare books
I debated whether I wanted to spend the money, but having it in hand at last pulled me towards the decision I made. I feel a bit like Kasper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon having finally found what he'd been seeking for years—and I didn't have to kill anyone in Istanbul, Hong Kong, or San Francisco to get it (and the book is probably not a fake made of lead).

Well, sir, it took me seventeen years to locate that bird, but I did.
I wanted it and I'm not a man that's easily discouraged when I want something.

With these new books I feel some naval gaming coming on. I don't have any galley models, but I have lots of 1:1250th scale coastal forces, which I've used to play David Manley's Action Stations! rules. I just downloaded a PDF of David's recently released 16th c. naval rules Cannon, Cross, and Crescent from Wargame Vault.

The days ahead

I expect the next four days to fly by, but I'll try to get a few things done. I want to complete my Algoryn Liberator model (we have a game next Saturday) as well as get some units completed for The Pikeman's Lament. I have several units in some stage of completion—I can never just paint one unit at a time—and it would be nice to clear them from my painting table and  get them on a gaming table this summer.


  1. BTW love the title of your blog....mine would (if properly named, "I live in a menagerie" 3 cats 3 wiener dogs and the
    worlds most brain damaged's bad when the mini
    dachshunds look at you and shake their heads lol. Anyway, nice find on the books, I was stationed at FT Lewis back in
    1982 and always loved the area but, never made it back sadly.
    Do hope you get some painter discipline and when you find it please be kind enough to tell me where it's located! Have a happy 4th!

  2. Have a great few days off!
    I really enjoyed your post with its glimpses of where you live.

  3. At first I was amazed - had you actually found THE holy grail? Upon reading that these "grails" were fish and chips and German coastal forces I was a bit disappointed, but not overly so - good fish and chips is hard to find, and I, too, have several grail books that have yet to be discovered at a used book store. Enjoy your time off. There were rumors at my company that they were going to give us Monday off, but sadly they were simply rumors and I expect to spend the day at work tomorrow trying to change my password - always an ordeal for some reason.

  4. Ah, I've only stumbled on this post as you're nearing the end of your mini-vacation, David. Appreciate the virtual tour of your old haunts. I'm not very familiar with anyplace north of Puyallup, so your tip on the best fish & chips is something I have to add to my "to eat" list. Happy Independence Day!