Save any funeral flowers you were going to send to the Speakeasy Cafe, Seattle's seminal cybercafe and alternative performance space (and Belltown's communal living room). A month ago, the Speakeasy seemed destined for the ash heap of Washington State liquor regulations; despite its violation-free history, the state Liquor Board had told the cafe it couldn't continue as an all-ages venue offering beer, wine, and the "added activity" of live music. (See Q&D, 2/11; Impolitics, 2/25). The great local musician Hank Bradley had it right when he wrote, in a letter published three weeks ago, that the liquor cops bless "the combination of al-cohol and kids: Just see all the families around the tables in restaurants serving every sort of beer and wine. What the Liquor Board makes war on is music. Specifically, live music of any sort. It is amazing it doesn't shut down any restaurant that allows the singing of 'Happy Birthday.'"
No word yet as to whether the sprinklers will go off if anyone belts out "Happy Birthday" in the Speakeasy. But co-founder Mike Apgar says he and his partners have devised a plan to keep the cafe open, the beer on tap, the music playing (with a change), and, with luck, the Liquor Board at bay. And maybe even stanch some red ink. On June 1 the Speakeasy will close for remodeling. On July 1 it will reopen, with booths and two large meeting tables replacing the smaller tables now scattered around its wide, open front space. "We'll do coffee, beer, wine, pastries, and basic snacks," says Apgar. "No meals. The meals were killing us."
That space will remain all-ages, but performance-free. Music, readings, and whatever else will be consigned to the smaller back room, which Apgar insists "you can actually get more people into," thanks to compact seating. "If a person throwing an event in back wants to serve beer and wine, it will be 21 and over." Otherwise, all ages may still attend. But they'll probably have to pay a cover.
"We're really optimistic," says Apgar. "I think it will be a more welcoming place." Maybe, but this still seems a retrenchment from an all-ages, all-arts third place, primed for unexpected cultural encounters. No longer will the very young, the fairly young, and a few silver-hairs schmooze, read, check their e-mail, and maybe even listen to pass-the-tips-pitcher free jazz, strummin' and moanin', or classic Cole Porter, all in the same room. But that's the price of survival under a liquor regime that's mutated into performance police.
Sea Shepherd says, Iceland ho!
Sorry, Neah Bay; just as the gray whales are due to return, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which led the noisy fight against Makah whaling last fall, announces that it can't give the grays full attention this season. "Iceland is now our top priority, and the Makah are a secondary problem," Paul Watson, the anti-Ahab, declares in Sea Shepherd's latest media release. The society adds that its past warnings, that "resumption of whaling by the Makah would result in the resumption of whaling by other nations," are coming true. The proof: On March 10, the Icelandic Parliament voted to resume whaling—because, according to Sea Shepherd, it's "no longer worried about US pressure because the United States has compromised its own principles by allowing a whale hunt in the United States that has not been recognized by the International Whaling Commission."
An Icelandic official (who asked not to be named out of avowed fear of reprisals) gives a different explanation: The parliamentary vote was merely "a resolution" in support of whaling. "It was referred to the government. The government has made no decision," and isn't expected to act on it. Regardless, the official adds, the local imbroglio over Makah whaling doesn't seem to have prompted the decision, nor to have drawn much other notice in Iceland: "I haven't seen anything in the papers about it." And the vote isn't a switch: Iceland, which quit the International Whaling Commission in 1986 rather than submit to whaling prohibitions, has asserted its right to whale all along. The fact that it hasn't, the Icelandic representative adds, isn't because of "US pressure," or even Sea Shepherd's wrecking two of its whaling ships. It's because its main market, Japan, has been too "cowardly" to buy whale meat.
Gas Works, with honor
It's official: Two weeks ago, Gas Works Park—the gasification-plant-turned-eyesore-ruin-turned-civic-monument/playground-turned-toxic-nightmare-turned-monument/playground once again—acquired a new distinction. The city's Landmarks Preservation Board nominated it as an official historical landmark. It was a heartwarming moment for the Friends of Gas Works Park and for architect Richard Haag, who spearheaded this industrial relic's preservation and resurrection as a park. They spoke for the nomination and are also expected at the designation hearing on April 24. Rumor has it that a major fireworks display will be ignited at Gas Works to celebrate the honor, 94 days from now.
Death Wish, the Sequel
Lemme get this straight. We'll pummel Yugoslavia so hard Milosevic will just have to lay off the Kosovars. Or, as that faithful Clintonite Sen. Joseph Lieberman told The New York Times, "At some point he's got to consider the devastation that NATO will do to his country and that will topple him."
Say what? If modern warfare teaches one sure lesson, it's that bombing more often stiffens than breaks down resistance. From Nero to Saddam Hussein, tyrants have shown endless capacity for tolerating the suffering of their people, which often serves their interests; it keeps citizens too weak to rise up, and rallies them against foreign foes. And when things go wrong, they're only too glad to take their nations down with them—suicide on a megalomaniac scale, as perfected by Hitler.
Though he's portrayed as a wily survivor, Slobodan Milosevic seems a possible prospect for grandiose self-destruction. Suicide runs deep in his family: His father, a religious teacher, and uncle, a general, shot themselves. His mother, a communist activist, hung herself. Any death wish he might hold would dovetail nicely with the Serb national myth. It's oft reported (and, it seems, oft forgotten) that so many Serbs are so determined to keep Kosovo, where so few of them actually live, because it's where they lost their great 14th-century battle to the Turks—who slaughtered the Serb knights. You wouldn't want to live there, but it's a nice place to die for.
So here they go again? If so, NATO has become an enabler. And at this point, there's no turning back.