Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Photo courtesy Flickr

The annual trek to Northgate’s theatrical, display, and costume supply store happened last week-end. The Christmas section is a reliable vital sign of the economy: it’s three times the size of the last couple of years.

I love to cruise this place looking for products that are so fundamental and innovative that they enrich the household far out of proportion to their price or weight. Strings of ornamental lights have become year-round staples: in this climate, they’re a medical necessity. The store features a huge unbreakable red plastic ornamental ball about fifteen inches in diameter. It ain’t cheap, but just one would furnish a Charlie Brown style tree.

I found a set of forty finger-length clear plastic spoons that are decent, elegant, and a reasonable investment for the number of times I am ever likely to want a tiny coffee spoon. A cupcake outfit sells a ready-to-assemble three tier cardboard pastry server so festive and agreeable that I bought one to give to a baker as a minor Christmas present. It inspired me to plan on using mounting tape to stack a large tray, immaculate flower pot, medium tray, and footed candy dish for a potluck that’s coming up soon. 

I contemplated strewing mylar confetti over the same potluck table, but backed off because mylar does not compost. Specks of mylar confetti have evaded the vacuum cleaner for as long as fifteen years. I’ll substitute the colorful shredded crimped paper sold as gift packing. 

The carnival store is located at one edge of a neighborhood that was designated an urban village a couple of mayors back. The area centers on Seattle’s first shopping mall, built on land clear cut from virgin rain forest, turf that’s never been logged, like Brazil. Over the last year it’s been transformed from the dreary remains of a post-war veteran’s paradise into not an urban, but a truly global village. Mermaid Coffee was simmering with real estate closing, student orientation for a veiled girl, and countless frisky family tables of internet-savvy young adults. A new twenty-four hour breakfast dive offers welcome respite for the feet.

On our way from the bus stop to carnival central, we happened across a boutique specializing in batteries and light bulbs. Prices on familiar items were very good, and this is the greenest store I’ve run across in years. It stocks whatever source of illumination one might want to keep an existing light fixture in operation. One display shows the effects of differing light technologies on the same charts of color while another quizzes the shopper about which light source is affecting which surface. It’s comforting and challenging to browse a space that assumes I am educable.

The bus ride home was interrupted by a cell call, and I changed my travel plans, discovering Metro Route 68 in the process. This route links several favorite shopping destinations that became well-nigh unreachable after I discarded the car nearly twenty years ago. The 68 links University Village, upper Roosevelt, and Northgate in a neat loop with the UW campus.


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