A few miles outside Olympia, Wash., I passed the Sleater-Kinney Road exit and, in my excitement at seeing riot grrrls history, completely forgot the band’s origins.
According to my revisionist version, civic leaders renamed the street in honor of Sleater-Kinney, the feminist punk group that Carrie “Portlandia” Brownstein and Corin Tucker formed in the 1990s. Once I was in town (specifically, at a ceramics class with craft beer), a local reminded me about the actual order of events: The musicians named the trio after the sign, not vice versa. But the truth didn’t shake my faith in Oly pride, which bubbles up like the artesian well water that has been slaking Olympian thirsts for centuries.
“Keep Portland in Portland. Keep Seattle in Seattle,” said Ned Hayes, founder of Oly Arts, a cultural publication. “We want to do our own thing.” Despite the city’s location between two Pacific Northwest juggernauts, Olympia does not suffer from Middle Child Syndrome. The city has a distinct identity that is more convivial than angsty, although both can exist under one roof.
At Encore Chocolates and Teas, co-owner Dean Jones informed me that I was standing in the spot where drummer Dave Grohl first performed with Nirvana. Then he pressed a square of artisanal chocolate into my palm and sent me on my way.
A few doors down, Rainy Day Records general manager Adam Hardaway proudly pointed out the children’s play area among the vinyl records and DVD rentals. “We have toys so that little kids will think this place is cool,” he said. Apparently, coloring books are a bigger draw than Kurt Cobain.
Over several days, I gained an appreciation for Olympia’s community spirit, which appeared around every corner – at the farmers market and in oyster bars, at breweries and coffee roasters, on the capital campus and along the boardwalk at Percival Landing. When I drove by exit 108 for the last time, I was more convinced than ever that Olympia would have dedicated a piece of the city to Sleater-Kinney if it had thought of it first.
riparian forest, estuary, wetlands – with critters. The nature reserve is the permanent or temporary residence of birds (more than 250 species), fish (95), amphibians (seven), insects (60) and mammals both clawed and vision-impaired (Townsend’s mole), and flippered and Betty Davis-eyed (Steller sea lion). The wildlife checklist runs 11 pages long, but not all of the animals appear in the pamphlet. I had to write in my discovery, the Pacific tree frog, which materialized before my eyes like a Magic Eye 3-D poster. Along the mile-long Twin Barns Loop Trail and its tributary routes, birds swooped, frogs belched and blackberries jumped off the bushes and into my mouth. On the Nisqually River, a local hiker and I stopped to try to identify a loud buzzing sound. “We call those bird calls ‘fishing boats,'” she said.
He showed us the rotunda, the state reception room and the two chambers, which varied in décor, down to the floral carpet design: coast rhododendrons for the House and dogwoods for the Senate.