image from hecklerassociates.com
“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
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.
Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics
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