Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Waterfront Tale

image from hecklerassociates.com

Waterfront Tale

“Seagulls are the unpaid guardians of public health,
keeping the waterfront free of garbage.”--Ivar Haglund.

When I was a kid in the 1950’s,
           Seattle was a gem of a city, 
           and every week I looked forward
                                     to a Saturday jaunt with my mother
                                     to the Waterfront;

first to the world famous Seattle Public Market,
           because my mother would only buy our
           meats & produce there, not trusting the
                                      shoddy practices of those new-fangled
                                      so-called Super Markets,
& we would stroll along the cement fairway,
always wet from the spray on local produce.

In those halcyon days,
when cars got 10 m.p.g.
& nobody noticed because gasoline was fifty cents a gallon,
at the market you could still hear       all the vendors singing out
               their wares, with lovely accents, in booming voices,
               reminding us that some of them still remembered
                                      their days of pushing carts on the street.

Elliott Bay was crowded with exotic tankers, cruise ships, sailboats
& an ever-churning repetitive line of ferries.
               The joyful capper to the shopping day
               was a visit to Pier 54, in the middle of the waterfront,
                                 at Ivar’s Fish Bar;
                                 always a zany adventure
since customers would just crowd up to the wide bar
               & shout out their orders, which
               in turn would be shouted out to the cooks.

One had to keep track of your own order, &
of your sacred place in the hungry throng,
                        because as the food came up, sometimes
                you had to arm wrestle another patron
who was trying to claim it. 

Back in the day
         there was no inside dining,
                  so we always felt like it was a seafood picnic, 
                             sitting in a covered area along the pier, or
                                         along the street. In winter Ivar had
installed overhead heaters to break the icy chill
blowing in off Elliott Bay.

We would just sit outside in the sea salt briskness,
                 happily munching our freshly fried
                 big pieces of lingcod fish & chips, sipping
                                          clam nectar, or slurping the thick
scrumptious clam chowder, or gobbling
                 the garlic off the Boston fried clams--
inhaling the seaweed oder
of kelp, saltwater, & creosote off the pier,
                 & feeding the seagulls, who would swarm there
                 begging          for french fries or seafood tidbits;

adjacent to the brightly painted
Seattle Fire boats, & only two piers away
                                 was the bustling WA State Ferry terminus
where double-decker Super Ferries chugged
in & out like seafaring Greyhound buses, blasting their whistles,
slamming into the clusters of piling, 
                 dropping the loading tongues with a metallic clank.

I know that all port cities boast of having
the world’s finest seafood, but I’m here to tell you,
the Alaskan lingcod served up by Ivar Hagland,
opening his restaurant in 1938,
                 just tasted better than everyone else’s,
                 fried up in some kind of secret batter,
                                  and served up with a supreme cup
                                  of incredible tarter sauce, never sweet,
kissed with vinegar, strewn with garlic dill & Walla-Walla
onion tidbits.

Ivar, a tireless self-promoter, a Seattle character forever,
had been a folk singer in the 40’s, 
having the likes of Woody Gutherie & Pete Seeger
                    as house guests, & he came to be dubbed
                    as King, Mayor, & Patriarch of the Waterfront,
                                  called himself the Flounder of his business,
which mushroomed into several up-scale full-tilt restaurants,
& a Seafood Bar franchise that is still expanding;
                    his motto & logo was Keep Clam. 
                    Since his death in 1985, 
             they have erected a statue of him,
standing & smiling in front of his flagship fish bar,
& now his beloved seagulls 
keep it decorated daily. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

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Björn Rudberg said...

Oh Glenn -- we seem quite alone here at the bar to start with.. i like your foray into that fish-market (and Ivar must have had Swedes in his back-ground).. i feel hungry already from your descriptions .. Totally wonderful :-)

Claudia said...

oh i'm so hungry now...hmmm... i love fresh seafood...reminded me a bit of san francisco and the fresh seafood you get at the waterfront or sylt... oh my goodness... i need to get to the ocean somewhere... smiles

Abhra said...

Wow, such interesting tale - first of all and such rich memories....

I love to buy from the local markets so much - I found a rare photo of that from a friend, and shared it too.

Marina Sofia said...

I love, love, love open-air markets, food markets in general. Does the fish market still exist (even if in a modernised or smaller format)? I've been to one in Italy and in Tokyo and I dream of going to one in Marseille or Spain...
Beautifully nostalgic poem, which captures the sights, sounds, smells of yesteryear.

Wolfsrosebud said...

love the title and the business of this... being in the mid-west all we get is second imports and some pan fish

Lane Savant said...

Like being there again, Glenn.
Fish market still there Maria, big tourist attraction, they throw the fish around, at you.

Sabio Lantz said...

Ah Seattle, my former home -- what an amazing picture full of memories. The gulls in the beginning and end were excellent.

Kathy Reed said...

Brings back memories of when I first moved to the big city of Seattle from a small town in 1965...a babe in the woods...thanks for telling and sharing the tale so well ;)

Anonymous said...

There's a personalness to food that we've lost - and perhaps some will never know. Nice Glenn - I'm glad the statue is useful - a tribute to the art. :)

Raivenne said...

Oh man, I'm both hungry and filled with wanderlust now. I've been to Seattle, but have not made it to the infamous fish market. You tell a wonderful tale.

peach blossom moth said...

"kissed with vinegar, strewn with garlic dill & Walla-Walla
onion tidbits" I love the sound in this.

Anonymous said...

Times like these, I wish I was a non-vegetarian! But, I do share a passion for travelling and trying new local items! So yea, I can relate to quite a few parts very well :)

Bishop said...

Yeah, me too. This one made me hungry, the image of the fried batter is making my lunch in the office fridge seem wanting. Thanks for putting these words together.

Anonymous said...

Groovy piece- felt like I was right there on at the market and on the pier with you.

Cressida de Nova said...

Your love of seafood is palpable :)

Poet Laundry said...

Deliciously told, Glenn. I'm in the Seattle area, too, so your poem resonated with me. I love Ivar's...especially the chowder.