Sunday, April 22, 2012

Retreat: Day 11

Sleep in because up very late last night. Spend what’s left of the morning doing email: half urgent business, half arguing with colleagues on teaching/learning list over assessment issues. I should probably be spending the time writing, but I love pontificating even more. I am probably annoying many of those on the list by pointing out why their grading practices make no sense, but off list am being egged on by private emails of support and requests to reprint my comments in their newsletters or Facebook pages. (A lot of the staff in teaching/learning centers don’t have tenure, so are rather more cautious about telling off profs, but I am happy to front for them. I think instead of going for full prof, I should apply for official curmudgeon status.)

Mary tells me to go to the Seattle Art Museum for the afternoon, so I do that. It’s just three blocks away, and it would be crazy for me to keep wasting time on email while I am in another city, especially one I’ve never been to before.

I instantly love Seattle. I desperately want to go to the Café Nervosa, but am handicapped by it not being a real place. But that’s the tone of the whole city. I can definitely see why people move here. I feel invigorated just walking through the streets in spite of the rain and cool temperatures.

And the Art Museum! It is middle of the afternoon and jammed packed with people. Not school kids this time, but adults of all ages. If this is typical of the turnout, then Seattle is one art-loving city. The current exhibit is Gauguin and Polynesian art…I find Gauguin kind of okay, and when I work out how old he is and how young his native girl “companion” in these paintings, there is a bit of an eewwweeee moment. White imperialists picking up local teens is kind of dark. But the Polynesian artifacts that inspired him are marvelous.

There are several other exhibits I rush through, the African facemasks being a great one. I snap some pictures for future reference for my own cultural appropriation purposes, should I ever care to write fantasy.

Then onto the Empire Builder. I am again struck by how Amtrak and intercity rail are so active. There are three trains in the station when I arrive and the station is thronged. As we zip along past or stopping at various stations, I can’t help but be impressed by the scale of the operation. The station in Everett WA for example, is twice the size of Lethbridge’s airport; we don’t even have a functioning rail station. It’s the health clinic these days.

Supper is with three gentlemen who have been travelling extensively by rail, clear enthusiasts. They exchange the relative merits of particular trains and routes. On of them is a piano tuner, and we have a great conversation about mentoring, the arts, Seattle, and life.

Not much writing done today. But an excellent holiday.

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