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Crazy Horse’s pipe centers multifaith ceremony at St. Patrick’s

Envision a priestess of the Goddess, a rabbi, a Sufi, a Methodist minister, a Lutheran pastor, a Quaker, a Hindu, a Muslim, Native American leaders and representatives of several other faiths passing around a pipe that once belonged to Crazy Horse, making prayers and sharing insights as the pipe came to them. All in a Catholic Church!

The 28th Interspiritual Celebration of Gratitude at Thanksgiving

The 28th Interspiritual Celebration of Gratitude at Thanksgiving

It happened in the neighborhood last Sunday. The 28th Interspiritual Celebration of Gratitude at Thanksgiving took place at St. Patrick’s with the theme, a Ceremonial Call to Illumine and Restore the Sacred. It was centered on the Sacred Pipe Ceremony. Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr, an enrolled member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations, noted that his tribe has had Crazy Horse’s pipe in its possession for several decades. But they are only bringing it out now.

This is a time when prophecies of Crazy Horse and other elders are being fulfilled, Lane said. After 500 years of darkness a spiritual renewal is bringing people of many faiths together to protect the Mother Earth. So Native people are beginning to share more of their ways with us. Bringing out the pipe was one manifestation of that.

Seattle spiritual leaders pass around Crazy Horses pipe

Seattle spiritual leaders pass around Crazy Horses pipe

Native spirit was at the center of the event. We were welcomed by Ken Workman, a member of the Duwamish Tribal Council and a fourth generation grandson of Chief Seattle. Sundance Chief Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation gave an extended talk with some deeply poignant moments. His son, Cedar George, was at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School when the tragic shooting happened recently. Healing was one of the intentions of the event. Rueben broke up for a moment describing how much he hurts for his son. Cedar spoke about how his grounding in Native spiritual ways gave him the strength to endure and help his classmates.

Native leaders from right to left: Ken Workman, red scarf; Phil Lane; Rueben George; Cedar George

Native leaders from right to left: Ken Workman, red scarf; Phil Lane; Rueben George; Cedar George

Rueben George and Phil Lane are both leaders of the Nawtsamaat Alliance of Native and non-Native people. The Alliance is taking a stand against oil and coal trains, ports, terminals, and pipelines in order to protect the Salish Sea, the inland waters from Puget Sound through the Georgia Straits.  This stance was the background of the Ceremonial Call. Faith communities such as those represented in the Sunday ceremony increasingly understand the Earth is sacred. They are prominent in the movement against coal and oil expansion because they understand that fossil fuels threaten our climate and our waters. Rueben talked about the growing movement coming together to protect the waters, noting how 25 years after the Exxon Valdez spill, Prince William Sound is still polluted. That could happen to our waters if we let the fossil fuel industry’s insatiable greed have its way, he said.

I have to admit I’m a recovering Catholic who rarely passes the door of a Catholic Church. But it’s no surprise I found myself at St. Patrick’s. The church is committed to keeping alive the ecumenical and progressive vision of the early 1960s Vatican II conference. This must have been challenging through the conservatism that has prevailed since, but the tradition of openness seems to be returning with Pope Francis. Maybe I’ll find my way back for a regular mass. It would make my mother happy.

Sunday’s Ceremonial Call was deeply moving, indeed stirring gratitude this Thanksgiving season. In a world where so much seems enveloped in darkness, this brought light.

Down home Seattle soul lives at Voula’s Offshore Café

When I first came to the Northwest in the ‘70s, after growing up on the East Coast and going to school in California, I noticed that this corner of the U.S. stood out for its great breakfast places. I became familiar with the culinary delights of omelets stuffed with a multitude of ingredients accompanied by piles of hash browns, stacks of toast and coffee cups that never stayed empty for long.

I speculated it was all about the natural resources economy of the region. About the need for a hearty breakfast before going out to run chainsaws, heave fishing nets or herd cattle. All the logger’s and rancher’s breakfasts listed on the menus were a pretty good clue.

It was definitely the case with his place, says Sikey Vlahos, owner of Voula’s Offshore Café, located just off Lake Union at 658 NE Northlake Way.

Voula's entrance

Voula’s entrance

“This place was supported by fishermen and the people who worked on the boats. They needed hearty meals, to escape to a restaurant to get good food.”

The fishing industry is not the force on the lake that it once was and many older landmarks have shut down under pressure from higher rents. But Voula’s continues to attract a steady clientele from local residents, the university and a still active business community on the Lake. In a Seattle that is rapidly gentrifying Voula’s remains a genuine expression of traditional Seattle soul, a down home diner serving ample, tasty breakfasts and lunches in a friendly setting rich with recollections of local history.

Voula's mural

Voula’s mural

There’s the mural that covers the entire east wall of the front dining room. Depicting Portage Bay circa 1957, it was done by an artist named Gene Buck who needed a place to stay. The restaurant, just opened two years as Rose’s, had a room off to the side. So as a trade Buck spent his evenings painting the still bright image centered on University Bridge.

And there’s a piece of the original SLO-MO-SHUN IV hanging on the wall. The history-making hydroplane was built by Anchor Jensen of Jensen Motorboats, still just down the street from Voula’s on Boat Street.

Piece of the demolished SO-MO-SHUN IV

Piece of the demolished SO-MO-SHUN IV

Hydroplane historian Fred Farley tells the story: “In the early hours of June 26, 1950, an event transpired that caught the racing world by surprise. An Unlimited Class hydroplane with the unlikely name of SLO-MO-SHUN IV set a mile straightaway record of 160.323 miles per hour on Lake Washington near Sand Point, which raised the former standard by nearly 19 miles per hour . . . SLO-MO-SHUN IV was not the first Unlimited hydroplane to ‘prop-ride’ on a semi-submerged propeller. But she was the first to reap championship results in the application of the concept . . . For the next twenty years, boats had to pretty much use a SLO-MO-type of design to be competitive.”

The hydroplane broke to pieces in an accident on the Detroit River in 1956. Heartbroken owner Stan Sayres died three weeks later. But the memory of this piece of Seattle heritage lives on as part of a hydroplane display on the rear dining room wall.

One of two paintings by Chihuly

One of two paintings by Chihuly

A catacorner wall reflects another famous Seattle connection with two paintings by Dale Chihuly celebrating Voula’s. Chihuly’s Lake Union glass blowing shop is a nearby neighbor and Chihuly was another Voula’s regular when he lived there in the 1980s.

Voula’s has yet a further claim to fame. In 2007 Guy Fieri of the Food Network made the restaurant one of the original features for his show, “Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives.” The crew came in for a two-day filming session. The Voula’s episode still repeats and has made the restaurant an attraction for tour operators.

“It doubled our business,” Sikey said. “We had to expand.”

Guy Fieri's book features Voula's

Guy Fieri’s book features Voula’s

Despite all the fame and attention Voula’s remains totally down to Earth. It is the good old neighborhood gathering spot with many daily regulars. A bulletin board full of friendly messages, a wall of pictures of customers’ children, even a shelf of toy cars donated by customers – originally for kids to play with, are all evidence of how much a community place this is.

Sikey and his mom, Voula, took over the place in 1984. Then the Offshore Café, they added Voula’s name, and it has stuck ever since. Voula herself is officially retired, but she is often in providing a warm, Greek-style greeting. The other day when I was in for breakfast she led the house in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for a customer.

The entire family migrated from Greece in 1971 when Sikey was 7. Dad worked as a tailor. Voula started working at the Little Cheerful Café, which is now the Portage Bay Café at University Motor Inn. In 1983 the owner sold the Little Cheerful.

“My mom was upset she wasn’t offered it,” Sikey says. “So she started looking for restaurant to buy, and she bought this one.”

Recently Voula’s expanded again. A classic diner where mounds of hashbrowns cook on open flat stoves behind the counter, the café has now added a much larger rear kitchen in a space that was formerly Tony’s Coffee warehouse.

“We have five times the kitchen that we had,” Sikey says.

The menu “all started with the classic American breakfast,” he notes. Creative weekly specials are offered and become regulars if popular enough. As you might expect, there’s a lot of Greek influence in the menu, like one of my favorites, the Freagy Greagy omelet with feta, spinach, Greek sausage and onions. Voula’s does a lot of its own meat and fish smoking. One of their signature dishes, the Pinata Benedict, features their own smoked pork, though I like to switch that out with their smoked salmon.

New buildings are popping up around Voula’s North Lake location. The university is slowly devouring the neighborhood. Will Voula’s survive or be swept up in the development wave as have so many classic Seattle institutions? Fortunately, no.

“We own this place,” Sikey says. “We’re in control of our own destiny. With the huge investment we just did that is not in the foreseeable future. This block is owned by three different families. We are all on the same page.”

What is the toughest part of running Voula’s?   “Working 12 hours a day for 6 days a week. Sometime it’s seven,” Sikey says.

And the best?

“It makes me happy to see people eat a meal and make a comment such as ‘the best thing I’ve ever had’ or ‘that was extremely delicious.’ It gives me great gratification to make people happy.”

The family has indeed made this Lake Union tradition a place of happiness. Next time you’re hankering for a classic Seattle breakfast diner experience try out Voula’s Offshore Café. You’ll be happy you did.


Climate as the culminating progressive movement: Naomi Klein’s antidote to despair

Crossposted from Cascadia Planet*

In her seminal This Changes Everything Naomi Klein is looking for the force that will do just that, politically and economically, before business as usual changes everything about the climate and the world’s ecosystems. She finds answers in a coalescence of the past two centuries’ great progressive movements, all of which have “the intrinsic value of life . . . at the heart . . .“ Climate can be the driver that completes the unfinished business of those movements, Klein writes.

The movement to abandon use of fossil fuels parallels the 19th century movement for abolition of slavery and the 20th century movement for independence of former European colonies. “Both of these transformative movements forced ruling elites to relinquish practices that were extraordinarily profitable, much as fossil fuel extraction is today,” Klein notes. Even the value of the slaves that were freed in the Civil War roughly equates to the value of coal, oil and natural gas that must be left in the ground to avert catastrophic climate disruption and ocean acidification – around $10 trillion.

But these progressive revolutions left unfinished business. The freed slaves never received 40 acres and a mule. The economic disempowerment of African America remains a stark fact today. Redistribution of lands and wealth did not follow colonial independence. Postcolonial governments that tried to redistribute wealth were undermined by coups, assassinations and bank-imposed austerity schemes.

Heroic social justice movements have secured legal rights and won cultural battles, Klein writes, notably civil, women’s and gay and lesbian movements. But they have been less successful on the economic front. The New Deal labor movement is an exception, as are social movements that built strong public services. But these are being pushed back. Klein looks to a turnaround and advance in a new progressive coalescence that secures economic justice by addressing climate necessities.

Klein’s fundamental point in This Changes Everything is that the time for gradual change in economies has passed. Humanity has dumped too much climate disrupting carbon in the air. Emissions reductions of 8-10 percent annually are needed in industrialized countries to stabilize an increasingly turbulent climate. This will require deep changes in economic systems. Making these changes offers a chance to complete the unfinished work of economic justice. Klein frames this as a Marshall Plan for Earth.

“The massive global investments required to respond to the climate threat – to adapt humanely and equitably to the heavy weather we have already locked in, and to avert the truly catastrophic warming we can still avoid – is a chance . . . to get it right this time.”

Thischangeseverything  thischangeseverythingback

Winning means beating the foe of all movements for the “intrinsic value of life” including climate, the extractivist worldview that sees land, waters and people only as opportunities to extract wealth. The contrast is an economy that regenerates life. She gives many examples, prominently, initiatives for clean energy and green jobs at local levels, from Native reservations to German municipalities. Bringing resources back to communities, enabling them to build their own sources of sustenance, is the key. That can come in land redistribution, restored public services and institutions, and good housing, as well as solar panels and wind turbines.

“So climate change does not need some shiny new movement that will magically succeed where others failed. Rather, as the furthest-reaching crisis created by the extractivist worldview, and one that puts humanity on a firm and unyielding deadline, climate change can be the force – the grand push – that will bring together all these still living movements.”

Indeed, Climate Movement 2.0 seems on arrival. Climate Movement 1.0 was driven primarily by environmental groups and scientists. A more diverse range is coming to Climate Movement 2.0. More ethnic, more working class, younger.

Climate Movement 1.0 culminated in the unsuccessful push for a federal carbon cap in 2009-10. The climate bill was stuffed with nuclear and “clean coal” subsidies and tied to a carbon offset market that would have allowed polluters to substantially avoid direct emissions reductions into the 2020s. Even support for offshore oil drilling came into the Senate bill. Klein correctly concludes that failure to pass that bill “should not be seen, as it often is, as the climate movement’s greatest defeat, but rather as a narrowly dodged bullet.”

Klein skewers the process that created the bill, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership of Big Green groups such as Environmental Defense Fund and big polluters. The severely compromised legislation gave a free pass to 90% of power plant carbon pollution and set carbon caps far short of what it would take to avert disastrous global warming. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would have been barred from regulating power plant pollution. Ironically, EPA is now moving to do just that as the result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. In the end, the polluters jumped ship when they saw the legislation crippled by lack of Obama Administration support.

Despite spending nearly a half billion of Green funder money to support the legislation, the climate movement also lacked much of a grassroots base, Klein writes. It was more focused on elites. She quotes Harvard University sociologist Theda Skocpol. “To counter fierce political opposition, reformers will have to build political networks across the country, and they will need to orchestrate sustained political efforts that stretch far beyond friendly Congressional offices, comfy boardrooms, and posh retreats.”

In other words, the climate movement would have to move beyond the suites and out onto the streets. Notes Klein, “a resurgent grassroots climate movement has now arrived and is doing precisely that – and it is winning a series of startling victories against the fossil fuel sector as a result.“ This more grassroots and democratic movement is where Klein sees hope.

“When I despair of the prospects for change, I think back on some of what I have witnessed in the five years of writing this book,” Klein says.

“When I started this journey, most of the resistance movements standing in the way of the fossil fuel frenzy did not exist or were a fraction of their current size. All were significantly more isolated from one another than they are today.”

Now, resistance to extreme fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure, to tar sands, fracking, coal ports, oil trains, etc., draws in Native people, farmers, faith communities, local public officials and civic groups. The direct action movement Klein dubs Blockadia is sprouting across the map, “’friction’ to slow down an economic system that is careening out of control.” Universities, cities and foundations are facing and responding to determined citizen movements demanding divestment from fossil fuel stocks. In Germany hundreds of municipalities have de-privatized electric utilities, restoring public control and driving one of the world’s most rapid shifts to renewable energy.

That last trend exemplifies one of Klein’s most important points, the urgent need to push back the attack on the public sphere by the market fundamentalism that has prevailed since the 1980s – the philosophy that government can do no right and the market can do no wrong. From responding to disasters such as Katrina or Sandy to rapidly advancing clean energy, a rebuilt public sector is crucial, she says. Klein’s subtitle, “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” has spurred criticism and misunderstanding that she is calling for an end to capitalism as the precursor to solving the climate crisis. Klein’s real point is that we must begin changing the balance of power.

“There is plenty of room to make a profit in a zero-carbon economy; but the profit motive is not going to be the midwife for that great transformation,” she writes.

Instead, a turn back to communitarian values will be the motive force: “. . . any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews, a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic, after so many decades of attack and neglect.”

In a season that has seen the People’s Climate Mobilization in New York and around the world, with a visibly broader spectrum coming to the climate cause, Klein’s This Changes Everything is the book of the moment. Klein has sighted the path to climate victory in integration with a larger progressive movement, and victory for the historic thrust of progressive movements in a unifying focus on climate. The struggle will be long and difficult, but working together there is a chance to build the better world of centuries’ aspiration. Klein has drawn a prospect of immense hope out of a deep crisis that can so easily induce despair. That is the genius of this book. Read it.

*Editor’s note:  Patrick Mazza is a climate activist, writer, blogger and Lake Union resident.