What's Tony Thinking

Seals, Walls and Breweries


On Friday I gave up. Turns out I was not the only one.

I gave up on skiing since every time I planned to go, like Friday, it seemed that it was just a little too warm in the mountains.

So, you take what the weather gods give you. It’s sunny and not quite warm but not really cold. So kayaking. I walk my kayak down Seaview Avenue and put in at “Secret Beach” next to the Elks Club.

My usual paddle takes me down to the lighthouse at West Point of Discovery Park. What was unusual about paddling on Friday was the number of seals. At one point, I saw a dozen poke their heads above water to keep an eye on me. Quite an audience.

The heads of those near are as big as bowling balls. Further away they become croquet balls, then tennis balls. They must have been having a boring day given that so many had their eyes on me, some a few feet away, some a hundred yards out.

Pacific Harbor Seals are common in these waters, but I’d never seen so many as last Friday. They have a dog-like look. No accident as they are related to both dogs and bears. Big eyes are endearing. Also useful. They help seals to see in deep water. They can dive to depths of 600′.

And they are curious and playful. A fellow kayaker complained of seal pups climbing on the bow of her boat. “They just want to play.” But since pups are 25 pounds at birth and grow rapidly on mother’s milk with a 40% fat content, they can be destabilizing playmates.

If I yielded to the weather on Friday, so did President Trump, who seemed to notice the political weather reports were growing bad.

Two thoughts on this. One, the idea now seems to be “let’s work out a compromise, both sides giving.” Normally, I am in favor of compromise. The only problem here with is that if a compromise includes a wall, that overlooks the question of whether a wall — a 14th century solution — makes any kind of sense in the 21st century. Or is simply a boondoggle that will give Trump bragging rights?

Second thought, while I think Trump is vulnerable in 2020, I don’t share the gleeful optimism of some Democrats and commentators in the wake of Friday’s cave, that Trump is done for and the Democrats are now a shoe-in. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. 2020 election is a long ways off. And the Democrats are still going to need a compelling and appealing candidate to emerge from their crowded field.

And, finally, my article reviewing Jim and Deb Fallows book Our Towns came out this week in The Christian Century. One of their sub-themes in looking at comeback and vital American towns is brewpubs, which we in Seattle and particularly in Ballard have in abundance. Fallows worked in the Carter Whitehouse when some lingering prohibition era laws were taken off the books, a key to the craft brewery boom. Thank born-again Baptist Jimmy Carter for that.

The Fallows point out that brewing beer takes space. For that reason many start up craft breweries locate in lower-rent industrial or warehouse areas. But they get there and open a taproom. And before long they are a hub for food trucks or a new restaurant and maybe some new housing.

All over the country, craft breweries have become an engine of local, small-scale economic development. So hoist a brew and remember words attributed (probably erroneously) to Ben Franklin: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Amen.

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