BEST UNSUNG MUSEUM
My favorite display at the SEATTLE METROPOLITAN POLICE MUSEUM is the starburst arrangement of nightsticks and billy clubs from the 19th century to the present, followed closely by the massive 100-year-old book bulging with mug shots (proving that even criminals dressed better in the old days), the chunky 1970s dispatch console (very Starsky and Hutch), and the concealed vest camera from 1886. The official-looking font that spells out the museum's name on the awning for years caused me to take the place for an actual police station, and I'm not alonefounded by current North Precinct Officer Jim Ritter in 1998 and run by a very friendly woman named Judy Thomson, the museum is a favorite of tourists (who find it on their special tourist maps) but is largely unknown locally. If you want a true accounting of the WTO riots and the shootings of various unarmed black men, you should probably start your own museum, but for (I hope) the world's only re-creation of a Green River crime scene and a fascinating collection of the officially unauthorized weapons cops used to subdue drunken gold rushers, this is the place.David Stoesz 317 Third Ave. S., 206-748-9991.
MOST EXCITING NEIGHBORHOOD CULTURAL ADDITION
Neighborhood movie theaters open only once in a blue moon, so the advent of the COLUMBIA CITY CINEMA has been big news in the South End, where every sign of revitalization is still greeted with cheers. Paul Doyle, who founded and ran the Grand Illusion for 20 years, is running fund-raiser screenings at a former Masonic lodge, which he hopes to revamp into a theater by year's end. As Doyle notes, the space combines elements of two classic Seattle cinemas: a Harvard Exit-like lobby with parquet floors and high ceilingswhich Doyle has filled with comfy, secondhand couchesand an auditorium lined with bas-relief columns that calls the Egyptian to mind. Doyle says he intends to run "high-quality first-run and independent films" (think The Hours or American Splendor). But he's not too snooty to cater to Columbia City's many pint-size mavens: A kids' matinee is in the works.Nina Shapiro 4816 Rainier Ave. S., 206-721-3156.
BEST THEMED GAMBLING
Gamblingunless it's state-sponsored, like the lottery, scratch tickets, etc.is against city law. But the GRAND CENTRAL CASINO is on what's called the "Seattle Strip," a collection of mini-casinos near Southcenter. The Grand Central offers "the illusion of being in the middle of New York City in the 1940s" and the reality of being in beautiful downtown Tukwila. Jackpots can hit $150,000, the casino says; winning them is another thing. With table limits now $100, you can drop a bundle at the 15 table games that include blackjack, Fortune Pai Gow poker, Spanish 21, three-card poker, and Caribbean stud. But the scenery's free: a neo-Vegas, Big Apple motifwalls featuring N.Y.C. cityscapes and an 8-foot Statue of Liberty welcoming the tired and huddled masses but not necessarily the poor. Its spacious gaming room features a restored 1946 flatbed Chevy truck that doubles as a salad bar in the Ripe Tomato Bar & Grill. (Grand Central also recently opened a second location, with steak house attached, in Lakewood.) Rick Anderson 14040 Interurban Ave. S., Tukwila, 206-244-5400.
BEST ENTERTAINMENT DEAL IN TOWN
Look, no one's saying it's easy to drag your tired ass out of the house on a Monday night. I'm just saying that if you drag it down to the SUNSET TAVERN for their MOVIE MONDAY, you'll have a good timefor free. Here's the deal: Some local gadabout shows up with Quadrophenia or Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains or an Ozzy documentary, and then everyone watches the movie. It's standing room only, emphasis on the standing, but hey, you're drinking beer, and no dipshit in the next row is telling you to shut up when you whisper and laugh with your friends, so you really don't care. After the movie, the same gadabout plays some records, and people dance and talk and drink some more. And then a piano player gets behind a piano and takes requests and plays some songs, and peopleactual people who live in Seattle and are usually insular and weirdsing along. Incredible. Exhilarating. Drunken. Fun.Laura Cassidy 5433 Ballard Ave., 206-784-4880.
BEST SALSA FOR BEGINNERS
When you're serious about salsa, you want to go to the club with the best live music, the most talented clientele, the most spacious dance floor. When you're a beginner, you just want to go someplace where you won't look like an idiot. Friday or Saturday at BESO DEL SOL is just the spot. It's not that there aren't plenty of masterful dancers on the floor; it's just that it's pretty easy for newbies to blend in with the crowd. The night begins with a user-friendly lesson; the bar's just a shimmy away from the dance floor, so regular tequila shots are a snap; and it's pretty dark in there, so if the lesson didn't help you, nobody will notice. Besides, the patrons who are dancing are too busy to critique you and the ones who aren't . . . well, who cares about them?Katie Millbauer 4468 Stone Way N., 206-547-8087.
BEST LOCAL MUSIC WEB SITE
"Seattle's sparkly indie-pop press" is how THREE IMAGINARY GIRLS advertises itself on its home page, and in music coverage as in life, enthusiasm goes a long way. The GirlsDana, Liz, and Charsidestep deadweight snark and blind-cum-bland cheerleading, covering local shows in a chatty, snappy, round-robin style in the best fanzine tradition. There are also fun features like Coffee with a Rock Star, and AstroPOP!, in which Chilly C (aka Malinks singer Chris Lorraine) reviews records according to your star signthe Divorce are recommended to Virgos, Noba to Aquariuses which we liked so much we started using Mr. C in the Weekly.Michaelangelo Matos www.threeimaginarygirls.com.
MOST PROMISING YOUNG POET
Check out the following poem, currently part of Metro's bus poetry series. It's called "Ice Cream," by BRYSON GOOD, a second-grader at Arbor Heights Elementary in West Seattle.
I lost a soft ice cream cone out a window
It maybe flew in the dirt
And I am still waiting for summer
If this isn't astoundingly poetic for a second-grader, we must be insane. The 11-7-9 metrical structure (haikuesque without being obvious or derivative), the surprising syntax of the second line movingly underscoring the speaker's desperate hope, and that perfect, perfect last linethat last line is a killer. Some of us have spent multiple semesters in college writing workshops with people who couldn't produce something that good. Certain members of our staff consider young Bryson melancholic, but his poem defies such easy summation. Bryson has been writing since kindergartenthat is, since two years ago. After the announcement that "Ice Cream" would be published as a bus poem, he joined other bus poets at a special reading at the Seattle Art Museum. Bryson read his signature work, then signed autographs for eager fans. His current mission: tackling third grade.Neal Schindler
BEST RECORD STORE CLERK
Yes, I think iPods are neat. And CDs are very handy. Even cassettes are cool. But I have to say, there's nothing like a good old-fashioned piece of grooved vinyl, so if we're talking "record stores," I'm going to actually talk record storesthe ones with vintage and new LPs. The real deal. First, however, let's pause for a moment of silence for the departed Fall-Out Records (they locked their doors for the last time in late January), where the record store clerk to top all record store clerks, owner Tim Hayes, presided over all things true, good, and garage punk. It ain't the same without you, Tim. Good thing we've still got Bop Street in Ballard, Singles Going Steady downtown, and Jive Time in Fremont. Of those still hanging in there, I like the pink-and-orange-striped JIVE TIME the best. I just feel happy there, probably because it's ultratidy and efficient, the bargain bins hold actual bargains, and RJ is one of the coolest cats in town. Hailing from Long Island, RJ spent his salad days of the clerking biz at Wowsville Records in N.Y.C. and moved to Seattle about a year ago. He's the antithesis of Jack Black's character in that Nick Hornby book-turned-flick. "I just want to be helpful to people. I never want to come off as that High Fidelity jerk," he says. Though he's ready and fully able to assist you with your shoegazing fetish or old soul addictions, RJ himself is into "obscure Swedish and Italian hardcore from the '80s."L.C. 3506 Fremont Ave. N., 206-632-5483.
BEST NEW IN-CITY RECREATION
For years, GARAGE was the bar at that point on Broadway that you'd stumble by and bark, "You think they got enough friggin' pool tables in there?!" Today, it's the bar you stumble by and bark, "You think they could fit one or two more friggin' lanes in there?!" Pearl Jam noodler Mike McCready was a co-founder, and in July current owners Alex Rosenast, Jill Young-Rosenast, and Mike Bitondo expanded the tournament-friendly pool hall into a trendy bowling haven, perfect for Capitol Hellions who pooh-pooh the long haul to the Sunset Bowl in Ballard. Fourteen lanes (did we mention it's, um, intimate?) are spread over three stories, embellished by multiple bars and beautiful vantage points. It's not easy to secure an admittedly pricey lane on the weekends ($20-$25 per hour after happy hour), but the spanking-new shoes are more covetable than thy neighbor's wife.Andrew Bonazelli 1130 Broadway Ave., 206-322-2296.
BEST SHOW OF THE PAST YEAR
Nobody really mentions this kinda thing, because it's uncouth and ostensibly irrelevant, but Jeremy Enigklike the majority of Speed Stick endorsers from the mid-'90ssweats. Approximately half a song into a FIRE THEFT set, Enigk's modest tee resembles the Great Lakes. Sometimes we forget how physicality plays into the best rock shows; this man belts it 'til his body breaks. With plenty of time to refocus after the second demise of Sunny Day Real Estate, Enigk and drummer Will Goldsmith (with help from original SDRE bassist Nate Mendel) spent probably way too much time in their Kirkland basement developing their U2-in-a-club sound into a U2-in-an-enormodome-on-Mars sound. Their DEBUT, AT GRACELAND ON JAN. 21, had nary a memorable stage dive, ad-lib, solo, group hug, or lighter moment, but it was executed with such possessed intensity that the audience was left more quietly dumbfounded afterward in postcoital astonishment than any I may ever see in this city.A.B.
BEST ALBUM OF THE PAST YEAR
Can this periodical possibly give Ben Gibbard any more positive ink? The answer is, evidently, hell yesand then some. We heart your wardrobe (still wearing that suit coat in the 90-degree Bumbershoot heat, eh?), your co-conspirators (how the hell did Jenny Lewis: Former Child Star drop such a painfully poignant cameo?), and your influence on yourself (Death Cab's latest, Transatlantic, totally cops THE POSTAL SERVICE's sincere, warm electro hum). GIVE UP converted many a starry-eyed devotee last year. It is an album that suits a variety of events: long, midnight drives back from George, extended make-out-just-to-make-out sessions, post-work futon naps, even a rambunctious, Pabst-soaked hipster after-party. Gibbard and knob wizard Jimmy Tamborello have a big record sleeve to fill on the follow-up. And with that, adieu to Weekly Ben Gibbard idolatryfor at least, um, two weeks. Can't go three. Uh-uh. No way.A.B. BEST NEW CLASSICAL-MUSIC ARRIVAL
Under its previous leader, the Northwest Chamber Orchestra developed a reputation for reliably comfy programmingEine kleine Nachtmusik on a Sunday afternoon. But RALF GOTHONI, now starting his second season as music director, has wasted no time in expanding the orchestra's scope. His January 2001 debut concerttantamount to a public auditiontossed down a gauntlet with the bleak and ferocious Piano Concerto by Alfred Schnittke, with Gothoni himself as piano soloist. Since then he's presented a novel dose of music by his Finnish countrymen and Eastern Europeans, and a commission from Philip Glass: a sharp and witty Harpsichord Concerto, to open the group's 2002-03 season. Another Glass concerto is coming up next April. Gothoni's solo recital last month of Janᣨbreve)ek and Mussorgsky revealed an expansive, bighearted way with the music and a technique so sure in the conquering of difficulties that it never called attention to itself: You came away thinking, "Mussorgskywhat a great composer," rather than, "Gothoniwhat fast fingers." On the podium, his interpretations are as clear and bracing as spring water, yet dramatically gripping in every detail. He's truly a world-class musician, and Seattle's lucky to have him.Gavin Borchert
BEST RESIDENT DIVA
Two weeks before the Seattle Opera's January 1994 production of Bellini's Norma was to open, soprano Carol Vaness pulled out of the title role, one of the most notoriously difficult in all of opera. "Normas do not grow on trees," quips SO director Speight Jenkins. A trusted colleague of his suggested JANE EAGLEN, then an up-and-comer with the English National Opera, as a replacement. She arrived in Seattle two days after Christmas with a horrible cold. "She literally was unable to sing at all in any rehearsal between then and opening night," Jenkins recalls. "So, as I told the audience before the premiere, I, like them, was hearing her sing the role for the first time. The rest is history." Nearly 10 years later, Eaglen's one of the busiest and most praised sopranos in the worldespecially in Wagner: She practically owns the roles of Isolde and Brnnhilde and sings them everywhere. And her appearances here have seen her intensify as an actress, investing her high-flying roles with increasingly assured emotional forceand even a flair for light comedy, as in her last SO role as Beethoven's Fidelio. She's decided to make Seattle home base for her international career, marrying and settling. Eaglen's not just a diva, she's our diva.G.B.
The space that used to house Tower Records in the U District is one of several empty, profitless properties on the Ave. How fitting, and encouraging, that one of Seattle's most popular buskers, DAVID, has chosen the sidewalk in front of this defunct music megastore for his funny, memorable small-time act. The man with the guitar and the misshapen ear regularly entertains weekend passersby with the theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, only to turn around and play one of his signature songs, the Crash Test Dummies' "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm," while members of his fiercely devoted fan base "Mmm" along. In addition to old TV theme songs and classic U2 or Sex Pistols, he's been known to perform the entire Rocky Horror songbook, which always inspires audience choreography. With his perpetual smile, his "Art Outlives Us" T-shirt, and his phonographic memory for lyrics, he perfectly embodies ars gratia artis.Neal Schindler The sidewalk in front of 4321 University Way N.E.
COOLEST NEW PUBLIC ART
Feeling a little seasick on your way out of downtown? Perhaps the city's most efficacious piece of public art is having its impact. Located under the Alaskan Way Viaduct flyover in Belltown, right next to the Casa Latina day-laborer headquarters, is Dan Corson's year-old WAVE RAVE CAVE. An undulating field of raised sculpted concrete waves, it has spread across the once-dingy, forbidding triangle where Highway 99 descends from the air into the Battery Street tunnel. Decorative, absurd, and creepy, like stalagmites that have blossomed from the street litter, the waves light up at night in psychedelic nightclub colors, a '70s party washed up from Puget Sound.Mark D. Fefer Northeast corner of Western Avenue and Bell Street