Dear Yakima: Fear No Art

by on Aug 14, 2014

I saw a bumper sticker recently in downtown Yakima that read: FEAR NO ART.

Yakima might take that aphorism to heart, considering the brouhaha over the proposed downtown art installation for the Lincoln Street overpass.

This is an interesting story that’s been seven years in the making. Apparently some of the state and federal money the city received for the double-overpass project for Martin Luther King and Lincoln Streets included built-in funds for public art. (It’s important to remember here that funds for public art have traditionally been built into large projects: for example, school districts also receive money for art whenever a new school is constructed.)

So back in 2007, when it was clear the city would receive federal funding that included a percentage earmarked for a public arts project, Yakima’s city council asked interested local residents to study proposals and make a recommendation for an arts project that would accompany the overpass construction.

The residents on the committee went through a lengthy selection process and debated several viable options. Several hundred people helped vote on the design of the current project, which was inspired by stacked fruit bins–a vision that pays homage to the hard work and resourcefulness that turned this desert community into an internationally-renowned fruit basket.

The  selection committee eventually presented the winning option to the city council. Everyone understood that the caveat was that the overpasses would be completed first; if there was any money left over afterward, then the art project would be built.

Bins of Light

Here’s a representation of what the installation will look like at night. The sculpture is designed to be kinetic…when trains go through on the overpass, the bins will “stack” and unstack.

So the council approved the design and authorized the expenditure of $100,000 for the final design and engineering specifications from the Haddad-Drugan company in Seattle in 2010. The city even installed the necessary infrastructure on the Lincoln overpass needed to attach the lighted display.

But now that both overpasses are completed, some of Yakima’s elected officials are backpedaling on the art installation–even though the money is there. The city has enough money, in fact, to build the installation as well as an elevated sidewalk underneath the installation. There’s talk about how Yakima should spend the money on more practical things.

Comments on a recent Yakima Herald Republic article about the controversy range from sentiments like “the art will all get ruined by taggers anyway” (not true, say the folks from the selection committee: the installation was specifically designed to discourage tagging) to comments like how art is a waste of money,  given Yakima’s more pressing concerns.

During a meeting held Tuesday night at the Light Project gallery, about 30 concerned arts advocates met to discuss how to best voice support for the project in front of city council on Tuesday, Aug. 19th.  Yakima resident Lynne Kittelson noted the momentum Yakima’s gained in nationwide press as a “destination city” recently.

“Art is an economic driver,” Kittelson said, noting that Yakima’s central location and good weather make the area an ideal one for a thriving arts community. “But we’re not capitalizing on it,” she added.

The fact is that we human beings are absolutely obsessed with art—and we have been for millenia.

Oh? You disagree with the word “obsession?” Then consider the following: Ever listen to music on your car radio? That’s art. Have a flower garden? Art. Read a novel recently? Art. Those strange chants (“Cinderella/dressed in yellow/went upstairs to kiss a fellow…”) you remember from grade school? Art. Watch sitcoms on TV? Art. Seen a movie? Art. Ever had your picture taken, or taken pictures of a sunset? Art. Read the funnypages? Art. Built a model, danced at a wedding, played an instrument, arranged a bouquet, dressed up for Halloween, pruned a shrub, colored with crayons, mowed a cool pattern into the grass in your front yard?

All art.

Here’s the thing: art has never “made sense” from a purely practical point of view. A classic novel isn’t going to keep a house warm in the winter, or feed your kids. And music—probably the grandest and most pervasive of all human obsessions—isn’t going to cure cancer, fix a broken sewer main, or build a skyscraper.

But art is still clearly something that we want all around us. It seems to be something we actually need. After all, we’ve been drawing on cave walls and making music lot longer than we’ve been setting aside federal and state funds for public art and going to free concerts downtown.

We find that art inspires. We know it bridges impossible rifts between people and cultures. Art honors our history, mends broken hearts, fills us with all kinds of emotions, helps us pass the time, and reminds us that we aren’t alone. Why, art can even do things like increase tourism and make people feel safer. It can make people feel proud of all the hard work they’ve done to help feed the world.

And those things happen to make a lot of sense.


Click Here To Comment On This Post

How Sweet it Is–Local Baker Finds Success Without Sugar or Wheat

by on Aug 8, 2014

If there is one thing Yakima resident Ana Bazadoni knows, it’s how to overcome a challenge.

The dynamic, dark-eyed South American native moved to the United States thirteen years ago after she fell in love with a man she met in America while she was here visiting. The couple’s initial happiness—they have twin sons that were born in 2003—was overshadowed by an accident Ana had while on the job as a dishwasher at an assisted living facility. She had received damage to her spine, and she found herself wheelchair-bound for a while. So she decided to go back to school to Yakima Valley Community College to start work on an accounting degree, and with her husband’s constant help and encouragement, she overcame her injuries, learned how to speak English, and earned her degree from CWU. She even won an adult literacy champion award from YVCC in 2010, and she started work here in Yakima as a CPA.


Ana in the Light Delight kitchen

Then, in late 2011, Ana’s husband experienced a severe stroke that left him in a coma for four months. Ana lost her job, and she found herself trying to raise their then-nine-year-old twin sons on her own–without an income.

“I was in a panic,” she admitted. Doctors had told her not to expect her husband to recover, and she didn’t know where to turn. “I didn’t want to lose my home,” she said.

Then one day, as she was in the hospital visiting her husband, she noticed all the people in line for coffee at an espresso stand. “I could see the snacks there that people were buying, and then I thought, ‘I need to find something to make that nobody else will do.’” Since she’d worked in the bakery field for 20 years in South America, she decided to draw on her skills for a new business.

That started a two-year journey into experimenting with gluten-free, sugar-free recipes and getting the necessary permitting to bake products for retail sale. Once her husband came out of the coma in March of 2012, he spent two months in a nursing home. “He had to start over,” Ana said. “He couldn’t speak or walk…he had to learn everything again. And he had always been so supportive of me and pushed me,” she said. “So when I went to visit him in the hospital and saw him in that bed, it was like I was seeing myself.”

While her husband was trying to recover, Ana continued to experiment with specialized recipes. She decided to start eating gluten and sugar-free herself, and lost a hundred pounds over the course of a single year. She was able to stop taking insulin for her diabetes, and has seen positive changes in other family members since sticking to a sugar and wheat-free diet (her husband’s cholesterol levels have dropped, for one thing). “Doctors sometimes see sick people and just want to give them a pill,” she said. “But I think a lot of problems can be solved with education and eating healthy.”

Ana still had a host of issues to deal with, however (she calls her weight loss “extra credit”). Although her husband had made progress recovering, he was still disabled and needed routine care at home. She had two young sons who had suffered a great deal due to their father’s illness. And her husband’s numerous doctors’ appointment meant that Ana had to find work that would allow her to work flexible hours.

So she took $150 and bought “a little bit of everything” to start her business. She made some of her gluten-free, sugar-free cookies, and took samples around to Yakima’s coffee stands. “A couple of hours later, the orders started coming in,” she said. She recalls not being able to make a mortgage payment that first month because she’d bought baking materials, but she pressed on.

Back then, Ana was using a friend’s commercial kitchen in Toppenish to make the cookies, and she realized that wasn’t going to be a permanent solution—it was too far away from home, and she needed better, bigger ovens and a dedicated gluten-free, sugar-free facility.

So Ana built a gleaming commercial kitchen in her garage, and set about getting that permitted this year. She’s pestered everyone from local health department staff to the Food and Drug Administration in Seattle trying to figure out the best way to get her kitchen set up and have her products certified gluten and sugar-free (her baked goods and mixes have both been lab tested, and she’s happy to show people the certificates). The only sugar in the cookies is the sugar that occurs naturally, like the sugar in almonds and coconut, she explained. “I did a lot of research,” she says proudly. “I’m improving all the time.” Wrapped goodies

But isn’t baking gluten and sugar-free a challenge for a baker used to working with wheat flour and sugar? Not since she’s developed the recipes, she said. “I threw a lot of things in the garbage,” she admitted about her early experiments, but now she doesn’t even need to look at a recipe book. “I want the food to look good and taste good, because that’s my reputation on the line.”

And taste and look good it does. We sampled several of Ana’s products, and our favorites include the snowballs (at 100 calories per cup, they’re also a low-calorie treat). We also loved the almond and lemon cookies, and the alfahores (a traditional South American cookie with caramel in the middle) are especially intriguing.

Currently, Ana’s working 2-3 days a week filling orders for everyone from the Yakima Convention Center to private buyers across the country. Her website is up (you can order Light Delight products online), and more local businesses are starting to sell her products—you can now find them at Wray’s, Corvid Coffee, and MoJos (to name a few). She makes muffins, brownies, crackers, and cookies…and always has plans for expanding her offerings, she says.

“I think the biggest thing is making sure that people can trust what they buy,” Ana said, noting that some clients have life-threatening gluten allergies. “Even though this is my home, I’m fine with people coming over if they want to see the certificates or see the kitchen,” she said.

Light Delight Treats

Just try not to salivate while looking at this picture.

Ana is Light Delight’s only employee (her 11-year-old twin sons earn spending money by helping her put labels on the products, she says). But Ana is responsible for everything from printing the product labels to tracking deliveries.

“I don’t want to be rich—I just want to provide for my family,” she said. Although she has dreams about Light Delight becoming a family business, she says she’s careful to keep room in her life for the things that are important to her. “I don’t want my life to become all about business,” she said. And she credits her strong faith for bringing her through the tough times.

“Everything I have today is because of God,” she says. “And the support from a lot of people.”

You can visit the Light Delight website here.

Click Here To Comment On This Post

Take Me Out to the Pippins Game

by on Aug 4, 2014

Some folks who work for the Yakima Herald-Republic enjoyed a night out at the Pippins game last Friday, and for at least some of us it was an education. It was a beautiful evening—although it was still warm, clouds and a light breeze made it as pleasant an evening as we’ve had in a couple of weeks.

My problem is that I never watched much baseball growing up, probably because in Denver all the emphasis was on our beloved Broncos. I also never played much baseball, so many of the rules of the game (and a lot of game slang) are completely lost on me.

My fiancé R. has tried to get me interested in Mariners’ games, but the one thing I’ve noticed about baseball is that the exciting stuff always seems to happen right after I’ve stopped paying attention. One of our seat mates at the game was Karl Martinson from Naches, and he was really getting into the game. He performed a singsong “swuh-wing batter” catcall at one point, and was uttering phrases like “can of corn” after a hit (I had to privately ask R. for an explanation of what that mystifying phrase meant).  During a break in the action, I managed to crack everyone up when I innocently asked, “Is it halftime?”

Karl and Donna

I also didn’t know the Pippins team has a slightly scary-looking smiling mascot—but he didn’t scare Naches residents Karl Martinson or his friend Donna Jorgenson.

The annoying Twins fan

The annoying Twins fan

R. of course had to wear his Minnesota Twins garb to the game, since they’re his favorite team…just a little out of place here in central Washington. Then again, he sort of thrives on irritating people. I also saw a lot of people wearing Seahawks garb as well, however, which I also thought was interesting. I suppose the Hawks are so hallowed at this point after their Superbowl win that wearing their team jerseys is sort of an endorsement of sports in general.

And although a lot of us were there because we had free tickets, here’s proof that photojournalists never get time off. Herald photographer Kaitlyn Bernauer was at the game to take pictures for the paper—and just a few minutes later, she found herself at a structure fire on Garfield Avenue (we could all see the smoke from the field).


Kaitlyn Bernauer on assignment

There are only a handful of home games left this year, and it’s a great way to spend a Friday evening with your family (even if you don’t know much about baseball). I do know that the Pippins won the game….once halftime was over, anyway.

Beautiful sunset

The perfect summer evening–check out the sunset in the background.

Young fans

Young fans enjoying the action

Cumulus mammatus

Here are some sunset-kissed cumulus mammatus clouds to prove what a lovely evening it was.

Click Here To Comment On This Post

Whining is Weakness Leaving the Body

by on Jul 29, 2014

I’m getting married in October, and I’m doing the traditional bride thing: I’m panicking about how I’m going to look in my dress.

I don’t have to worry about losing weight to fit into the dress (let’s just say I’m a little wiser than I was back in my twenties, and I’m not going to do that to myself again). But it is a shortish, sleeveless kind of dress. You know, the kind of clothing item that strikes terror into a 47-year-old woman’s heart.

This was how I wound up in a Body Pump class at Yakima Athletic Club Monday morning at 5 a.m.., doing my level best not to throw up.  (If you don’t know what “Body Pump” is, all you really need to know is that it involves weights and cardio, and is one of those practices that’s been outlawed in certain countries because it’s considered torture).

Now, I’ve always been what can legitimately be termed “large-boned.” I have the kind of physique that a German bachelor farmer would’ve drooled over 150 years ago…back when a guy needed a gal not only for breeding stock but someone who could hitch a team of horses, plow a field, build a cabin, and dig a well. As it happens, I can also reach over an octave on a piano with one hand, and small cats use my shoes for outdoor shelters.

And yeah, I understand that there are some fringe benefits to being Of a Certain Size, even though I pretty much hate it. As a mother of three boys, I was often pushed to physical limits that are normally reserved for reality television shows. Once one of my sons squeezed between the bars of a fence at a McDonald’s Playland—a 6’ wrought-iron fence, mind you—and I scaled that puppy in seconds. (The fact that I had a three-year-old headed directly for four lanes of traffic had an admittedly galvanizing effect.) It wasn’t pretty, but that’s the kind of thing a mother of boys has to do on a regular basis if she hopes to prevent offspring from becoming roadkill.

I’ve caught abandoned horses, driven tractors, broken up fights, fixed fences, and helped plant orchards. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of these things if I’d been a smaller, weaker person, but that doesn’t make the little snarky voice in my head go away: By the way, you’re going to look like Sasquatch in that dress.

So I was thinking about all of this stuff on Monday during the torture session exercise class. Our excellent instructor was saying cheerful things like, “Feel the tension?” when we were performing the 300th bench press of the morning. Tension? You mean the white hot knives burrowing themselves into my biceps and shoulders? I had something like a whole six pounds on my bar, and I was dying. Dying. Not exactly field-plowing and well-digging material any more, are ya? 

I’ve always had a deep suspicion of people like my fiancé, who has a runner’s ability to take out his brain and put it on another planet somewhere so he can sprint around in 100-degree heat. On the other hand, I turn into a whiny toddler the moment I start to feel the slightest bit sweaty. R. believes this is because I am an impatient person who should understand that getting into better shape doesn’t happen overnight. I believe this is because I don’t like pain.

The Yakima Magazine fans on Facebook even admonished me about my lousy attitude about exercise after I asked for some input on different fitness classes in the Valley. Yep, that would be me. I know I’m supposed to tell myself all sorts of motivational things: “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step,” “Building strength builds confidence,” etc. Yeah, whatever. I may be on the journey, but I’m not happy about it–not one little bit. And I want the world to know. For some reason, the whining just makes me feel better.

Today I’m so sore that I had to sort of do this half-stumble half-hopping thing to get down the stairs at home, as if my legs have become clothespins. I managed to get myself out the door for an early-morning walk—albeit a very SLOW walk—so maybe there is hope for me yet.

I’m not so sure about the dress.  

Click Here To Comment On This Post

Taking Girl Prisoners

by on Jul 25, 2014

Everyone’s parents have favorite sayings, and sometimes those sayings get woven into the family fabric in unexpected ways.

When Mom was angry at us, sometimes she’d say: “I’m going to blow my stack!” And since my sister and I took her literally, for years we would uneasily watch Mom for signs of an imminent explosion whenever she got really irritated.

Even more incomprehensible were the things that our grandparents said. Grandpa Walt not only had interesting pronunciation (he called motorcycles “motorsickles,” for example), he had an array of midwestern vocal tics. Opinions  were usually prefaced by loud Foghorn Leghorn-type phrases like: “Well, I say—.” And I remember him cautioning me once when I was 12 years old that an elderly widow who lived across the street was “foxy.”

Now to me (at the time), “foxy” meant someone cute–like, say, Shaun Cassidy. Come to think of it, I still have no idea what Grandpa meant–he must have meant that his neighbor was clever in a sneaky sort of way, but I really don’t know. All I knew is that she gave cookies to the neighborhood kids if you showed up and acted like you were willing to make conversation.

I was also personally intrigued by Grandpa’s swearing-but-not-really phrases, like: “What in the Sam Hill where you doing?” After I moved to Washington and found out that the Maryhill mansion was built by Samuel Hill, I assumed Mr. Hill was the famous Sam in question and considered that important childhood mystery solved. (There are some more ideas on where this euphemism came from here.)

When I was really little, my dad had a stock phrase he used to put me off with, and it was a phrase that I managed to mistake for a weird euphemism. “After a bit,” he’d say, if I asked him to play catch with me. But I always thought he was saying “After a bed.”

This led to the following exchange with one the neighbor kids (which, fortunately, finally clued me in that there had been some sort of grave misunderstanding).

“Elly, can you come out to play?”
“Sure. After a bed.”
“You mean you have to take a nap?”
Now I was getting irritated, so I slowed down and spoke very clearly to make sure she understood me. “No, I mean I’ll come out after a bed.”

My friend stood on the front porch for a moment, squinting at me and frowning. Finally she said, “Um, after you go to what bed?”

That story always makes me feel like I’m a little bit dim, but it cheers me up to remember that there are worse cases. My college friend Deb hilariously mangled the lyrics to a certain Bachman-Turner Overdrive song (and there were witnesses). Remember  “Taking Care of Business?” Well, we caught Deb lustily singing along once (and once was all it took): “Taking girl prisoners…every day! Taking girl prisoners…every way. I’ve been taking girl prisoners, they’re all mine…Taking girl prisoners, I’ve been working all the time….”

Every time I hear that song–even though it’s been more than twenty years–I still think of Deb and grin. But I also think about those poor girl prisoners.

My parents’ phrases are still popping up in my life, too, like my engineer father’s: “Form follows function.” I usually say this (accompanied with a heavy sigh) whenever I have to MacGyver something (like the last time I had to put a car bumper back on with duct tape).

I’d like to think that a couple of phrases are my very own, though. One of my favorite exclamations is: “Oh good grief!” Unlike many other exclamations, it has the benefit of not being offensive to anyone without resorting to the more Mayberry-sounding “Oh my goodness!” or “Oh my gosh!” Of course, one might argue that it’s not really my own phrase at all and that it came directly from boring summer afternoons spent reading yellowing Peanuts paperbacks, but there you are.

Sometimes these phrases and exclamations swirl around my head at odd times. I’ll often have one stuck in my craw first thing in the morning, as if my brain is some sort of creepy fortune-telling machine that spits these sayings out every morning promptly at 6 a.m.

But you have to admit that these little phrases are like sparkly beads on a string–whenever they pop out of your mouth, it’s as if you can magically see how they’re connected to all the times your mother, her mother and maybe even your mother’s mother said the same thing. They maintain a kind of brilliance and allure, these phrases do…no matter how well-thumbed or hard they’ve been used, they somehow still have the power to hold us all together.

Click Here To Comment On This Post