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Originally published April 22, 2013 at 8:01 PM | Page modified April 23, 2013 at 11:03 AM

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Dining out at the Burke and creative destruction with Steve Earle

The Burke builds out; hard-won hope at the ALS Association lunch; the Soroptimists award annual scholarships to young women; and burning down a Walmart with Steve Earle.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Here were just two of the choices: A week in a stunning house overlooking the sea in Sayulita, Mexico. A seven-day cruise on Holland America.

So what prize did Allyson Brookschoose with her winning raffle ticket at Saturday night’s Burke Museum Curators Dinner?

Not sun. Nor sea. Just coffee with executive director Julie Stein and Tom Kundig, the architect charged with designing the new Burke.

“What was she thinking?” asked Kundig’s gloriously gray-maned wife, Jeannie. “Was she insane?”

Nope. Brooks — the state historic-preservation officer — is just a big believer in the Burke, which hopes to have a new building funded and built by 2018. The event raised $334,000 toward that goal.

Attendees got a thorough look at the current Burke, thanks to behind-the-scenes tours of the collections, including Ethnology, where a beaded vest found in a trunk donated to Goodwill is now an untouchable artifact. La-di-da.

The new museum will not only store collections, it will display them behind glass panels. And not a moment too soon: At present, less than 1 percent of the Burke’s treasures can be viewed.

“We are overloaded,” admitted board member Mary Dunnam.

“But this isn’t just about a building. This is about outside,” said Burke consultant Michele Hasson, referring to the museum’s natural and cultural history focus.

That “outside” theme was brought inside the dinner tent, with tables dressed with branches and polished stones, moss-colored plates and napkins, and rain pelting the ceiling, from which mother-and-daughter floral team Deborah Ritnerand Nicole Bolling, professionally known as Nicorah Floral, had hung “brancheliers.”

“We built them in the parking lot yesterday,” Ritner deadpanned. “In the rain.”

But back to Kundig, who explained his Steve Jobs-like black T-shirt and jeans thing: “I don’t have to spend any emotional capital on what to wear. So the clients get it all.”

He called architecture “the intersection of the poetic and the rational,” and the Burke job “a dream come true.”

So, sort of, was being the lucky winner’s choice.

“I love her,” Kundig said of Brooks. “I don’t know who she is, but I love her.”

Battling ALS

The number of people in wheelchairs, the packs of tissues on the tables and the snapshot centerpieces served as fair warning: This would be a heartbreaker of a lunch.

And it was; the “Visualize A World Without ALS” fundraiser for the Evergreen Chapter of the ALS Association was tough, but hopeful.

Chapter President Kathleen Holtstarted by telling the crowd that “Love, kindness and generosity will prevail.” She was right.

Steve Gibson, the ALS Association vice president of government relations and public affairs, called out Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for help establishing the ALS Registry. (She stood and waved.)

KUOW’s Bill Radkefocused his keynote speech on Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Owens , who was struck with ALS several years ago, and whose motto is “Embrace the suck.”

Pat and Jenny Dwyer got the Spirit of Lou Gehrig Award for advocacy and fundraising. Jenny thanked family and friends for “meals, cookies, lattes and most importantly, alcohol.”

She told of writing to President Obama to thank him for mentioning ALS in a speech, and receiving a handwritten letter back from him just last weekend. In it, he pledged to push specifically for ALS funding in his budget.

Great, she wrote back. How about $50 million?

“I just thought, ‘Might as well,’ ” Jenny said with pluck. “He has picked the wrong family to say ‘no’ to. I am going to get it into next year’s budget. I will.”

Soroptimist support

Speaking of strong women and money, the Soroptimist Club gave a bunch out at its annual dinner the other night to keep kids alive and young women in school.

The group’s Violet Richardson Award of $500 went to Ballard High student Anna Cechony, who started a suicide-prevention program called Students Lives Always Matter (SLAM). The program received $500 more to bring SLAM to other schools.

The Women’s Opportunity Award went to Dawn Wickert, a formerly homeless teen and now a single mother studying to be a teacher. She won $2,500 from the local chapter and a $3,000 grant from the Soroptomists’ regional office. (Second place went to Enjolia McClure, who received $2,000 to help with nursing school.)

“I feel so blessed,” Wickert told the crowd, fighting tears. “It took me a long time to get to a stable place.”

Earle in the store

Steve Earle’swife tells him that his music — Americana, alt-country, a modern-day spin on Depression-era songs — makes him a little like a Civil War re-enactor.

“There’s a lot of truth to that,” Earle told the crowd gathered last Thursday at the Silver Platters near downtown Seattle. “But I’m OK with it.”

So was the crowd at Silver Platters, one of the independent stores Earle is visiting to play short sets from his new album, “The Low Highway.”

The crowd filled the space between the stacks, smiling and singing along. People sat cross-legged on the floor and cradled kids in their laps. The guy next to me blew kisses across the room.

But there was also outrage in the air when Earle played a new song, “Burnin’ It Down,” about torching a Walmart. “We’re gonna have to make a decision,” Earle prefaced. “Whether we want jobs or bigger, cheaper flat-screen TVs.”

“Yeah! Burn it down!” the Kiss Blower hollered when the song was over, then turned and glanced at my notebook.

Think about it, anyway,” he backpedaled. “Don’t take it literally.”

No worries, Hot Lips. The last week had been fiery enough.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or

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