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WRITTEN BY JIM BRUNNER, RICHARD SEVEN,
PAULA BOCK, CRAIG WELCH AND VALERIE EASTON
From Politicians to Plantsmen
Checking back with some of Pacific Northwest's people
Jan. 13, 2002
When we last left Paul Schell, the weary millionaire was exiting city government after an embarrassing defeat in the mayoral primary a proud man laid low by four years of riots and political gaffes.
In his place came the deceptively bland Greg Nickels, who quickly exploded his "nice guy" campaign image with a Napoleonesque grab for power at City Hall. He has fired popular city department directors and installed loyalists. He's outmaneuvered a disorganized City Council, most recently bullying them into coughing up more money for his personal staff by threatening to junk a fire engine. The jury's still out on whether the new mayor has a grand vision to go with his big-league political talent.
Schell, who built more parks and libraries in his one term than any mayor in recent history, returned to the private sector, taking a job as "strategic adviser" to NBBJ, the architecture giant. The company sent out cards announcing Schell's addition as an "urban visionary." That role, dreaming up big civic projects and leaving the details and politics to others, fits him in a way the mayor's office never did.
Feb. 10, 2002
Kevin Reynolds, who directed this year's film edition of "The Count of Monte Cristo," is venturing further back in time with his next movie. Reynolds, who lives on the Eastside, is tackling the classic "Tristan and Isolde" with Hollywood heavyweight Ridley Scott as executive producer. They hope to begin filming by June.
"Cristo" was a success, making money and getting mainly good reviews. The harshest critics were those offended by the liberties and shortcuts Reynolds needed to take in condensing a huge, complex novel with little action into a two-hour movie. He admits test-screenings and the studio preference influenced him to put on a happy ending instead of the darker one he preferred.
"Audiences these days just want to escape," he says. "I think nowadays we're in a 'Beach Blanket Bingo,' Doris Day sort of phase. They want to see Reese Witherspoon and feel-good movies. I'm much more from the late-'60s and early-'70s period where you had anti-establishment, rebel heroes."
Tackling "Tristan and Isolde," another costume drama, could be a tough sell since it is a classic tragedy involving a doomed love triangle. "The saving grace," Reynolds says, "is that it is a really, really great script."
March 3, 2002
Santino Lual, a Lost Boy of Sudan turned Smith Tower elevator operator, will celebrate his 23rd birthday Jan. 1. It has been a good year. Santino continues studying for his GED in night school and has organized a traditional Dinka-tribe dance troupe of 18 other Lost Boys who are now young men.
As boys, they were forced from their villages by civil war, walked more than 1,000 miles across the desert, swam a crocodile-infested river and struggled for years on sparse rations in refugee camps.
Paved roads, elevators, tall buildings, cars, running water and deodorant were all new to Santino last year.
This year, he has learned how to drive, bought an '89 Nissan ("Everything works!") and his own cellphone to keep in touch with friends. On a salary of about $10 an hour, he is also paying school fees for his sister's children in Kenya and repaying a loan for his plane ticket to the U.S.
Ahead: A diploma and, he hopes, a career as a medical assistant or psychologist. "I need to help other people," Santino says, "so I need to know more about how they think and their culture."
March 10, 2002
This past spring, 34 years after helping stop the My Lai massacre, door gunner Lawrence Colburn and helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson were awarded honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from Emory University in Atlanta in recognition of their bravery and character.
Thompson was 24 and Colburn was 18 when they came across more than 500 unarmed women, children and old men who'd been raped, mutilated and killed by American soldiers in the Vietnamese hamlet known as My Lai. Thompson, Colburn and Glenn Andreotta (now deceased) landed their helicopter in the line of fire between U.S. troops and Vietnamese civilians, confronted ringleaders, evacuated 10 villagers from a bunker and rescued a child clinging to his dead mother in a ditch.
"By 18, even under a lot of stress, you know what the right thing is and you know what's wrong, and you try to follow your heart and do what's right, no matter what the circumstances," says Colburn, who grew up in Mount Vernon and on Whidbey Island.
Since Colburn's story was published here, people have donated about $1,600 to build a home for Do Hoa, the rescued child, who is now in his early 40s. "That's a lot of money in Vietnam," Colburn says. A home would help Do Hoa settle down and start a family, Colburn says, a meaningful gift since Do Hoa lost his parents in the massacre.
May 5, 2002
Every recess, every lunch period, every day after school, the gymnasium at Seattle's Sanislo Elementary School is filled with small children flipping, jumping, twirling, back handspringing and juggling to the beat of teacher Sue Turner's large voice: "If you WANT it, WORK for IT! DON'T GIVE UP!"
"Miz T" is now in her 33rd year as a physical-education teacher. For the past couple of years she's been thinking of retiring, but hasn't gotten around to it.
As the school term ended last June, the remarkably fit students at Sanislo scored the highest marks on the Presidential Fitness test of any school in the city. Turner's intermediate double-dutch team placed first in district-wide competition and the primary team placed second. The fifth-grade, ultra-competitive über tumblers graduated from Sanislo but sometimes return to visit. Andrea Adachi, who'd been practicing back-handsprings for four years, learned to do the trick on her own, but lost it over the summer. She continues to practice. Other students have moved to other schools due to complicated family situations. Miz T is saving their journals in case they are able to come back.
The teacher worries state educators might cut the physical-education requirement to save money. "I understand literacy is important, but educating the WHOLE child is equally important."
May 26, 2002
Seattle firefighter and Marine reservist Michael Washington has served in the Gulf War, Bosnia and Afghanistan. He left the fire station and his family yet again this month to help prepare for the possible conflict in Iraq.
Thankfully for his wife, Grace, and their two children, the call-up was for two weeks and didn't involve leaving the country. Grace and family expected him back by Christmas.
The couple's teenage son, Michael Jr., is enrolled in ROTC, but Grace hopes he strays from following in his father's military footsteps.
"I tell him it's better to go into the military after college. I'm hoping that he'll be in a major that takes six years and meet a pretty girl who will capture his eye and distract him from the military. Sometimes I feel like Lucille Ball."
Grace, an artist, turns serious when she talks about her husband's latest stint. Her family, she says, has seen enough of the country's armed conflicts.
"I don't want to sound unpatriotic," she says, "but you hear about these polls about whether we should go to war. I'd like to hear a poll from people who actually have to go do it. It seems to me the people most for war aren't the ones who will be at risk."
June 23, 2002
Rock climber Bill Robins was a purist, and happy to let you know it. Adamant that climbers should not needlessly mar the basalt pillars at Frenchman Coulee, a climbing haven near the tiny hamlet of Vantage, he bragged about removing fixed anchors from routes where he didn't think they belonged. Fellow climbers had even accused him wrongly of being the midnight thief who stripped hundreds of climbing bolts off increasingly popular routes at the hot rock spot near where Interstate 90 crosses the Columbia River.
There's little doubt this renegade would have had an opinion about the happenings there this past fall.
Known as much for his booming voice, vulgar route descriptions and unusual dress as for his 1,000 first ascents in Washington and Utah, Robins died in July of hypothermia and injuries sustained after being buried in an avalanche while climbing in the Bolivian Andes. He was 45. Then, a few months after his death, internationally famous adventurer G_ Kropp most noted for bicycling from his native Sweden to Nepal, climbing Mount Everest and bicycling back died in a fall while climbing at Frenchman Coulee.
To the chagrin of those who remember Robins, Kropp's grief-stricken companions etched a memorial to the Swede into the base of a pillar. Coulee regulars have spent much of the past month trying to persuade Kropp's friends to remove the carving, or at least not add to it. Kropp climbed at the Coulee as a visitor. Robins was perhaps the area's most prolific climber, but no memorial was placed in his honor. And friends insist he would have wanted it no other way.
The best memorial to Robins, those friends say, would be to simply climb the routes he established and cackle with glee along the way.
Sept. 29, 2002
After losing his reading glasses and contacts, and crushing his computer when adjusting his airplane seat, Dan Hinkley made it home safely last month from his plant-hunting expedition to South Africa and Nepal. The accidents to laptop and eyewear were minor incidents compared to his adventures in Nepal, where Maoists forced him and writer Jamaica Kincaid off of their planned route. Instead, the two felt a bit like the Von Trapp family as they trekked over a much higher pass, which had fantastic flora but also a middle-of-the-night landslide that barely missed their tent.
The botanical adventurers were twice robbed by the Maoists, who had recently beheaded a man outside of Kathmandu. Hinkley was called upon to medically treat a dying man in the remote village of Ritak on the Tibetan border, and was also asked to sew up the stumps of a villager's fingers recently amputated by an axe accident. Such are the perils of modern plant explorers in an unsettled world.
The good news is that Hinkley, after resting up a bit, is now writing thousands of tantalizing plant descriptions for the 2003 Heronswood Nursery catalog, which will be available early next year. From Nepal he brought home seed of what he believes to be an especially lovely, as-yet-undescribed species of the little woodland plant called Paris. And he and Kincaid are still good friends, despite spending four weeks together in a tent without showering.
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