Seattle’s Homeless: Building Communities

Homeless in Seattle

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Over the course of the past six months I’ve watched a homeless encampment sprout and take over a strip of land along Airport Way S., on the edge of Chinatown in Seattle.

I’d been tempted to stop and check it out, but felt wary. Unlike the nearby Nickelsville encampment, which appeared to be orderly and governed, Airport Way S., looked scarier.

On my way to work one sunny day in late summer, through my open window, I heard live music coming from the camp, and decided to pull over and park.

Three visiting pastors from S. Carolina and Kenya were leading a youth group who came to minister, distribute clothes and entertain the people living in the camp.

They were happy to talk:

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Volunteers minister to homeless

After interviewing the volunteers, I wandered between tents, parked vehicles and makeshift structures, and came upon a three-sided tent where a few people were sitting around a table. I thought they might be “in charge,” but they were inhabitants. One man was coloring in a coloring book; a woman was industriously rolling cigarettes, (which she was selling to others in the camp); and a third was a young man who had been on the road for a while and found himself in Seattle with no means to live. Here’s our conversation:

terri-nakamura-jaster-of-the-cheshire-airport-way-seattle-20160910_145659JC: I’ve been here 7 days and I’m a traveler.

TN: So how did you even find this place [homeless encampment]?

JC: It’s not hard when you’ve been on the streets as long as I have. You find places like this relatively easily.

TN: So how long have you been on the streets?

JC: Since before Katrina. I left one year before Katrina and I haven’t been back since. I was supposed to be there but I came here for a friend. If I had a forge and foundry, I wouldn’t be here.

TN: So you’re a metal worker?

JC: I’m a blacksmith, yes. I generally end up making weapons, chain mail, hell, if I had a bunch of coat hangers, I could make something right now. And I can could pack that b1tch out custom. All I need to do is get their measurements.

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TN: That’s quite an operation you have there (talking to a woman making cigarettes) they look quite professional

JC: I love those little packers. I had a small one once.

[Guy comes up to buy cigarettes and talks to the woman. There are 20 in a pack. He’ll come back for two packs.]

TN:  (to the woman) So, how long have you been here?

Woman: I’ve been here three weeks.

TN: This place wasn’t here a couple of months ago.

Woman: It’s probably because people get pushed out of certain areas. And then they get pushed into another place. This is kind of what happened.  I’ve seen it before. Make a community, make a family.

TN: Someone comes along and says, “OK you guys can’t stay here anymore,” — then what happens? How do you find a new place?

JC: Day by day we look and we see little things. Like I know of about 50 sleep spots that I could  use and no one would ever see me.

TN: You’ve been in Seattle seven days and you know of 50 sleep spots? That’s pretty amazing.

JC: It’s not hard. Walking around, you see ’em. I’ve been in this life for a while.

TN: You don’t seem very old.

JC: I know I don’t. I’m actually not that old. I’m 20.

Woman: I’m 27.

TN: You guys both look young.

JC: My name is Jaster of the Cheshire. Don’t ask me how to spell Cheshire.

TN: You sound like a Game of Thrones character. 

JC: I like to make things with my hands. I like to work on my own. I don’t work well with some people who mess with the creole boy. Oh he1l, no. I’m a crazy Louisiana boy.

TN: You don’t have a southern accent.

JC: Because that’s how long I’ve been away from home. The only time my southern comes out is when I’m angry. Or drunk. I drink on someone’s birthday or when someone dies. 

That’s a good way to grieve. I want to send my friend off and i want him to know I’m smiling and enjoying myself, knowing one day I’ll join him, wherever in the he1l we’re going.

TN: Well, I wish you the best of luck.

JC: I wish you luck, too.

TN: Thank you. Everybody needs some luck.

JC: We do. It helps us through everything we do every day. Lady Luck can sometimes be a cruel mistress.

Homelessness can be the result of many causes, including drug addiction, untreated/undiagnosed mental health issues, domestic violence, and tragic life events like death of a loved one, job loss, and family disputes.

Natural disasters or the elimination of options due to financial stress are other causes. It’s possible to be living a normal life until circumstances drastically change.

A friend found himself in several of the conditions above, and became homeless. I wanted to talk with him about his journey, but during the process of searching for him, I discovered he had died. There are people all around us who, as a result of some bad luck and lack of support, find themselves in his shoes.

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A border around a 10′ x 10′ plot of dirt was being reserved for “Redd.”

Homelessness is a concern to almost everyone in this city. On a neighborhood blog, I read a thread about homeless people camping in greenbelts, and the huge amount of trash they generate and leave behind. People had concerns about health, safety and how homeless encampments can negatively impact a neighborhood.

One idea was to create an area for homeless people to stay or camp, where restrooms and facilities for washing or bathing and disposing garbage are made available. One person likened homeless people to unwanted pets that have become too burdensome to maintain, then released in the wild.

Despite studies, meetings and participation by community organizations, there has yet to be a permanent solution.

Should Seattle make itself a hostile environment for homeless people?

Are urban campgrounds the answer?

Homelessness is a vexing problem here. Our city government is spending  time and money to identify a solution, and other groups are also working toward an answer.

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Tent City Collective has an objective: To mobilize, educate and unite students and people experiencing homelessness in order to end the many inequities that perpetuate homelessness.

It’s a lofty goal. But when the warmth and sunshine of summer gives way to the cold and rain of fall and winter, the solution can’t come fast enough.

I’ve gone back to visit the Airport Way S. camp twice more. It still looks scary, but the people living there are not. They arrived for all kinds of reasons, and they are bonded by their circumstances.

Those living there hang onto the community they’ve created. And when they’re forced to move, they will start again. The cycle will repeat itself until we find an answer.

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A miserable place to exist


Domestic violence is one of the major causes of homelessness.Verizon Wireless supports Hopeline, where donated phones are then turned into valuable resources for nonprofit organizations and agencies that support domestic violence victims and survivors nationwide.

The video and photos in this post were shot using a Samsung Galaxy S7, provided by Verizon Wireless.

More about Terri:

One Man’s Journey to Homelessness

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How does a guy who seems to have everything end up living in a tent and dying alone?

On the far right in the photo above, alongside several high school friends, stands Will, posed like Michelangelo’s David. Showing hyper-focused inclinations since childhood, Will was born March 12, 1950, and grew up in Burien, Washington. He (and the friends in the shot) graduated from Highline High School in 1968. Will then went on to earn a B.F.A. in 1978 from the University of Washington.

Will was creative. When he was in high school he did a poster for a dance featuring Magic Fern, a rock band from Seattle in the ‘60s. He loved music. He and his friend, George, attended the first Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair. Like many who grew up in that era, he was a serious fan of the Grateful Dead, but he also liked Talking Heads, Devo, Jazz and David Guetta. He had an adventurous spirit. He traveled to far away places including Europe, India, Goa, Tibet, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Following a prolific period as a sculptor, Will got a day job as an employee of the UW as a painter in the facilities department. The job was boring, but his life was not. He loved wine and learned to make it, producing gallons of it, then moved on to making whisky. He converted part of his rental house into an aviary and began breeding hundreds of budgies of every imaginable color. He got hooked on mineral collecting because his friends Roy and John were rockhounds—and within a year, he had acquired $2,000 worth of specimens. But his true passion, which may have contributed to his downfall, started in 1990 when he began to breed red and white Siberian Huskies.

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Mike, a long-time friend since the second grade, says, “From the first day I met him, he would jump into something with both feet. The first thing was his penny collection. He was focused and would immerse himself in things.” Or as his friend Roy puts it, “When Will gets into something, he gets into it.”

He continued to work at the UW until he was injured. After that, he survived on disability and doing odd jobs, and continued creating fractal art, and largely lived what seemed to be a reasonably normal life that included new friends as well as old.

Until about 2007, Will lived in a rented home in the Bryant neighborhood of Seattle. He was a great story teller, had a friendly way about him, and hung around with an erudite group of people including other wine aficionados and brainy people who worked on Cray computers and on projects like Boeing’s Star Wars program.

Then one day, everything began to change.

The owner of Will’s rental passed away, and the heirs decided to sell the house he was renting. Will was evicted.

At first he stowed his possessions in his friend, Henry’s, basement. Henry didn’t mind keeping Will’s things, but didn’t want anyone extra living in his home. Will was able to come and go as he pleased, and all was fine until he crossed the line and surreptitiously began to sleep there. His act of defiance had a negative effect on their friendship.

Part of his income stream was a years-long project, painting Mike’s house. He would hole up in Mike’s garage and take showers in the basement. It wasn’t the greatest for Will or Mike’s wife and kids.

In trying to piece together the sequence of events, Roy looked through a pile of photos and came across a camping picture. It was taken in March, 2010. By then, Will had already been living with his dogs in his van for a couple of years.

Will knew the spots where he could wash up and where he could source food. Roy says, “He would camp in public spots in neighborhoods. For a couple of years he parked in a church parking lot. They knew he was homeless, and eventually people in the area knew him and didn’t hassle him.”

To help him make some money and put a roof over his head, other friends hired him to paint their summer home and let him live there as long as he needed. The house was empty and surrounded by land where the dogs could romp freely. There were soft beds, electricity, a kitchen and bathroom, and living room with a television. It seemed like an ideal way to get him out of his car and into a home.

But at some point, it was discovered that even though Will had access to a free, warm and comfortable home, he continued sleeping in his van with his dogs while he worked on the house. He used the kitchen to cook, and used the bathroom for bathing, but he ran an extension cord from the house to the van where he would watch movies and sleep with his dogs.

A transition had taken place: Will no longer felt comfortable living inside of a normal house.

The unraveling of Will’s life occurred gradually. Each stage of the progression, by itself, struck everyone as “weird,” but then, Will was an odd duck, so it didn’t seem entirely crazy. If anyone would choose an unorthodox path, it was he.

Unlike many homeless people, Will had some resources. One family member supplied him with a cell phone for a while. He had his disability income. He owned some valuable assets. He had friends who were living normal lives. And he was eligible for temporary housing, but only if he would give up his dogs.

Erin, a family friend says Will was approved for housing six times, but wouldn’t go because he didn’t want to give up his dogs. Rather than part with his Huskies, he chose to live in his car.

Will and Mocha.png

Will was diabetic and not taking good care of himself. Even in the best of circumstances, it can be hard to stay on top of the disease. He blacked out while driving, and crashed his van. His friend, Paul, helped him buy another, and he crashed it, too. To finance the third, Roy helped him sell his mineral specimens. He crashed three vans before he began living in a tent.

Living in a tent is hard. Roy visited Will at one of the camp sites and saw insulin pens were all over — but no testing stuff. He was just taking shots and not monitoring his diabetes

Says Paul, “At the end of 2013, he was living in a tent with his two dogs in a public park in Federal Way, and had been there for a couple of months. Henry and I had a long talk with him about getting him care, and said we could help him find a place and get him set up IF he would get rid of the dogs. We even found someone who was willing to take the dogs and would have provided better care for them, but he refused.”

He was able to live for a while in Nickelsville a homeless encampment on South Dearborn at the edge of Chinatown. It didn’t last long. He bucked authority, got into an argument with the guard, and was evicted. He moved back into a tent. Once a week, Roy would pick him up and take him out for food and let him wash his clothes.

By New Year’s Day 2014, Will was in Harborview Medical Center, looking like a “crazy homeless guy with his hair all over his face.” It was a particularly cold winter. He had suffered frostbite on his fingers and toes, and didn’t lose any of them, but he was not in good shape. While at Harborview, he punched his doctor because she got too close, and didn’t recognize his long-time friends, Paul or Henry. He didn’t realize his dogs were gone. (The dogs were placed in a “No Kill” shelter in Federal Way.) Will felt he was being held prisoner. Clearly, he was not thinking clearly.

Will looked close to death, but by the time February came along, much to everyone’s surprise, he continued to survive. He was moved to St Francis Hospital in Federal Way and was placed in the Progressive Care Unit. He seemed to be coming along.

Toward the end of July of 2015, Will moved to an adult family home in Federal Way, near Roy. The proximity made it possible for Roy to visit each week and take him out for a meal.

Paul reports Will didn’t adjust well at first. In the family home, there were four children under the age of 10 also living there The TV was tuned to Sesame Street. It was a circus. So Paul got Will a laptop thinking he could watch movies and things of his own choosing. But Will would balance it precariously and would lose his balance when he used it. The landlord asked to have the laptop removed. The owners had Will’s best interests at heart, but he couldn’t follow the rules.

A month later, on August 28, 2016, Will died.

When asked about the cause of death, Roy was told “he was worn out.”

His friend, David, says, “Will was a character, sometimes following a rhythm only he could hear. He graduated from the UW with a fine arts degree and went off to India with a lovely blonde girlfriend. Came back dressed all in white—the coolest guy around. A kind and unconventional man, he didn’t always make the best choices, but he was always a loyal friend.”

Like so many homeless people who never expect it to happen to them, anyone reading this post could, at any time, find themselves teetering over the edge into the rabbit hole. Is it mental illness, the failure of a system, random bad luck, or a combination of all of the above?

Will is missed by his friends. They ask themselves if they could have done anything more to change the course of his life. But Roy sums it up perfectly: “He wanted to take care of himself, and wanted to live life in his own way.”

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Photo taken August 29, 1981

Will, March 12, 1950 — August 28, 2016


More about Terri:

#140conf #LA

Eight years ago I entered a bright and shiny world called Twitter. 

In 2010, I compared Twitter to a cocktail party, and I think the comparison still stands. Lots of people weave in and out of short conversations and content, with comments sometimes ricocheting like Pokéballs. About 47 of the 313 million active users “tweet” via smart phones, so Twitter’s 140 character limit makes it doable. Chatting in 140 character tweets isn’t the easiest way to carry on an extended conversation. Still, meaningful relationships can form, and when you discover a kindred spirit, it’s great!

Today I think the average person joins Twitter and feels lost. It’s not obvious what to do once you get there. I found the game changer is engaging in conversations. Once you start chatting with people, the clouds part and the Twitterverse opens up. You can pose a question and get immediate answers, and almost always find interesting people for banter or discussions. And there is an endless bounty of content to consume 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Jeff Pulver, founder of the #140 Conference, created and produced the first #140 Brands Conference in New York City on Dec. 2, 2010. As a graphic designer who works with businesses and branding, and being a social media aficionado, I was excited to learn how brands were navigating the social media sphere. It featured dozens of speakers and panels on myriad topics

The opportunity to meet virtual friends face-to-face was fabulous! I’ll never forget the snow along the sidewalks as I walked from the subway to the venue, and the thrill of meeting for the first time, Debra Cincioni, Lori Moreno and Jessica Northey , fellow Bitrebels — Twitter #BA75 sisters.

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L-R: Jessica Northey, Debra Cincioni, me, Tommy Geraci and Sueanne Shirzay, Dec. 2010, NYC

Past #140 Conference events have featured a series of 10-15 minute presentations and 10-20 minute panels that have provided attendees with knowledge, perspective and insights into the theme of the conference. The format has been fast-paced, so if there is something you’re not too interested in, it quickly moves on to the next topic.

The SOCIAL part of social media is super special. And for first-timers, the opportunity to meet many Twitter friends in one place, in real life, is undeniably exciting.

But the educational part is equally special. The #140 Conference provides access to some of the most knowledgable people in a variety of sectors, representing a huge depth of expertise.

Fast forward to July 25 in Los Angeles 

I had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and for the first time, meet Marsha Collier, Michele Meiche, Henie Riesinger and many others. I can only describe the moments of our meetings as pure joy!

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L-R: Michele Meiche, me, Marsha Collier, Julie Spira

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L-R: Calvin Lee and me

Over the past two months, Michele and I have been chatting on Twitter about our fond feelings for the #140 conferences. We weren’t just waxing nostalgia, although being in that place at that particular time in history was very special. Twitter has evolved and now there are many more people, and the way people and brands use Twitter (and social media in general) has changed. There is always more to learn, even for long-time users, so we concluded there is definitely a need — and isn’t it time — for another #140 conference?

At the LA event, I was hoping to talk with Jeff to see if I could convince him to organize another #140 conference. I had no idea he was aware of the conversations between me and Michele. So it was a surprise when, midway through the event, Jeff made the announcement that indeed, another #140 Conference is underway and slated to occur in Los Angeles this November. I was thrilled!

Anyone interested in Twitter, and social media in general, would benefit from attending. And some of us could find ourselves falling in love with Twitter all over again. I’m looking forward to learning what’s new, and I’m especially looking forward to meeting many new as well as long-time friends.

Earlier I mentioned how great it feels when you discover a kindred spirit on Twitter. Getting to physically meet your kindred spirit and hug them in real life is THE BEST!

Jeff invites interested sponsors to participate, and extends an invitation to all to attend.

Details to come! See you there!

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A crowd gathered around Jeff Pulver as he announced the coming #140 Conference.

The quality of the photos of the #14oconfLA gathering, shot in very low light with my Verizon Samsung Galaxy S7, impressed everyone.

And trust me when I say it’s not easy to impress a group of social media mavens!

I’m proud to participate as a member of Verizon’s social media team. My posts are about my own personal experiences.  No compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

More about Terri:

Daze of Our Lives

Am I Living in a Seinfeld Episode?

There Will Be Light

Two days last week, I worked at Alki Surf Shop while my husband, David, zipped over to Randle, WA, to do some work on our AirBNB house.

Shortly after I opened the store, a woman I didn’t know walked in and said, “I’m not stalking you, but you left your BMW lights on.” It turned out I’d parked in front of her house. She is also an aficionado of vintage BMWs, and didn’t want me to return to find my car with a dead battery. The woman’s name was Megan, and I discovered we both own businesses on Alki Beach.

I locked up the store and walked with Megan back to my car, opened the door and started the engine without a problem. She waved goodbye, I locked up my car and headed back to the shop.

Fast forward to the end of the day…

I walk back to my car and see the lights were still ON! OMG. Earlier, when I checked and saw my battery was in good shape, I forgot to turn off the lights!

But, to my delight, the engine started right up!

Sheesh. Old people. 

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My classic 1976 BMW 2002 is now 40 years old!

Chewing the Digital Fat at Alki Surf Shop

Our visitors are both local and from around the world. Later that day, Jim and Suzanne Skerjanc from Bellingham dropped in, and somehow, we started talking about cell phone service.

Jim and Suzanne told me about their spotty AT&T service, and how they recently switched to Verizon. And yes, this was a spontaneous conversation!

Suzanne said, “We were with AT&T, and just didn’t get a signal anywhere. I mean, at my work there was like zero signal. I had to go outside and it was still sketchy. Jim’s a realtor, so he’s all over the place—and, I mean, he HAS to have a signal.”

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Jim and Suzanne Skerjanc, happy Verizon customers

Jim told me he would be driving down a main road, and bam—his calls would drop. He noticed the bars would go to zero, then a half mile down the road, they would come back. And it happened all over the county.

When they switched to Verizon, it was completely different. They now have cell phone service everywhere they go.

“We have full service now. It’s like being in the middle of Seattle,” Jim told me. “Since we switched to Verizon, we have great, reliable coverage all the time.”

Hearing about their experiences made me proud of my connection to Verizon as a brand influencer. Maybe #BetterMatters, but in their case, #BetterWins! 

AirBNB AirHEADS

By a huge percentage, the guests at our home on AirBNB are nice and responsible people. It’s interesting to see how different age groups behave almost stereotypically. “Grownups” treat our house as their own, and leave things in great shape. Millennials, on the other hand, generally seem to have a different idea of what it means to leave a place neat and tidy, or to treat our home with care.

When we first listed our house, my friend, Reg Saddler said, “Well, you know what people do with AirBNB houses, don’t you?” (And being a newbie, I said, “No!?”) He went on, “Terri, people make pornos in them!”—which kind of freaked me out!

Last year we hosted a boudoir photographer, whom we found to be a respected commercial photographer, and totally legit. Nothing too crazy has happened so far.

Generally, when we hand over the keys, we meet our guests face-to-face, and I believe the personal connection helps ensure a positive experience on both sides. That is, most of the time.

Recently we had a group of guys make a reservation for a bachelor’s weekend. The person who booked the house specifically said to me, “We will be clean and respectful.”

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Beside filling huge garbage bags with empty booze and beer bottles, and then ruining and tossing five of our plush, hotel-grade towels into the trash without a word, this group burned through all of our firewood. And they also burned a batch of stripped maple saplings that David was seasoning to make into furniture.

Long pieces of beautiful wood leaning against the wall opposite the wall of split firewood would appear different to sensible people, but they were clueless. I could only think: “Morons.”

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Not the actual doll. The real one wasn’t this nice.

And to top it off, they also deposited a blow-up sex doll in with the rest of their trash. I mean, WHO DOES THAT? EWWWWW!

If we’d known the fiancee, I would’ve been tempted to tell her, “RUN, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!” 

MISSION: Litter-ally Accomplished

Some of you might remember my last new year’s eve and day were crazy. A small part of it had to do with a postcard offering a trial box of OKO cat litter from the Mud Bay Pet Store.

We regularly receive OKO postcards and I usually recycle them. But recently, one arrived, and I decided to give it another shot. So I tossed it into my briefcase in the event I was near Mud Bay in the Capitol Hill neighborhood

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A typical cross walk on Capitol Hill, Seattle

Last Sunday I was near Mud Bay AND I had the postcard with me! So in a deja vu moment, I pulled into the gas station next door to the pet store, walked in, and bought something, then asked if I could leave my car in their lot while I shopped at Mud Bay.

And once again, Mud Bay didn’t have the trial size of OKO cat litter available.

I asked, “Do you guys EVER have the trial size of this product?”

They said, “No.”

Apparently the manufacturer makes no effort to ensure their retail outlets carry the items they’re promoting.

To put an end to my quest, I bought a large size of litter because we were running low. And to my surprise, Mud Bay offered to subtract the value of the trial size. So the box ended up costing only a few dollars

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Ice, the teddy-bear hamster, captured on a Canary home security camera.

I felt guilty spending only three dollars on a large box of litter, so I also bought an interactive cat toy and some hamster treats for our son’s and daughter-in-law’s pet teddy bear hamster.

OKO cat litter is odd. It’s made from paper and sort of tubular in shape. I liked the concept, but it’s difficult to sift. Our Maine Coon, Hunter, is going along with it, but our silver tabby, Grey, is avoiding it. It was good to be able to try it. Now I know. 

Grownup Kids are FUN!

Last week, our oldest son Andrew, and daughter-in-law Diana drove to Seattle from Monterey, CA. Since they were supposed to arrive Sunday night, our family decided to delay celebrating Father’s Day until Monday, so everyone could be here.

But on Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from Andrew saying he and Diana would arrive in Seattle in time for Father’s Day dinner!

I love our oldest son, Andrew. He’s such an amazing kid! He also has a knack for creating minor chaos 🙂

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Andrew and Diana — weary travelers

Hearing his updated ETA, I needed to make sure our youngest son, Charley and his girlfriend, Sheela, were going to be available in a few hours, then cleared it all with David. When it looked like we were all on the same page, I switched into high gear, trying to figure out how we could get a dinner reservation on such short notice. So I called Marée Bistro, a neighboring business on Alki Beach.

Remember Megan, the woman who told me I left my lights on? Well, Marée belongs to Megan and her husband, Andy. They said they’d be happy to save us a table, which was great!

After we closed Alki Surf Shop, our group walked a few blocks to Marée and enjoyed some amazing dinners.

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Frisée salad with house-cured lardon, garlic croutons and soft-cooked egg

We ordered lots of different entrees, including a Galantine de poulet (like a free range chicken roulade), wild boar (tender and delicious!), hangar steak, a savory tart, steak frites; plus some yummy sides including a frisée salad and a tasty assortment of charcuterie.

It was a fun and festive meal and wonderful on every level. After dinner, we walked out, and were greeted by an incredible crimson sunset. It was the perfect end to a great weekend.

All of which started with Megan telling me I’d left my lights on. 

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The sunset as we exited Marée Bistro, Father’s Day 2016

The hamster photo was captured by Diana Horsfall, using the Canary home security system, courtesy of Verizon. The doll photo was sourced on Pixabay. Other photos in this post were shot by me, using the fabulous camera on the Samsung Galaxy 7, courtesy of Verizon Wireless.

More about Terri:

The Caring Economy — Earth Day 2016

 What companies do every day

Earth Day, established April 22, 1970, has become the largest secular observance in the world, and is celebrated by more than a billion people annually. It’s a day where people are more mindful about the environment and reflect on what they can do to help preserve and protect the planet.

But the earth needs our care every day — not just on Earth Day. Here is what a few companies are saying and doing:

Alki Surf Shop 

Having our business on Alki Beach means we have a front row seat to observe Earth Day and the forces of nature. We are aware of the ebb and flow of the tides. We look out at sailboats being driven by the wind, and hear the high-pitched calls of seabirds as they wheel overhead. When the sand is hot, we stick our toes in the cold salt water of Puget Sound – home to an irreplaceable, teeming ecosystem – and gaze up at the snowcapped Olympic Mountains glistening in the sun. And we realize that all of this is interconnected and must be protected for all time. — Kahuna Dave, Beach Bum and CEO, Alki Surf Shop

Alki Beach Sunset © terri nakamura - small

Apple

Apple’s recycling efforts recovered 89 million pounds of materials in 2015, including copper, silver, aluminum, steel, zinc, and $40 million worth of gold.

A commercial featuring Siri and promoting “Liam,” debuted today. Liam is a robot designed to dismantle and recycle iPhones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99Rc4hAulSg

Siri and Liam commercial

Amazon

Amazon is always on the lookout for ways to reduce the company’s impact on the environment.

  • Shipping packages are made from recovered fiber content, and are 100 percent recyclable
  • Amazon incorporates sustainable and eco-friendly materials in their buildings (six of their buildings have been awarded LEED Gold certification)
  • They make “Green” products available to consumers (www.amazon.com/greeAmazon Earth Day Bookn).

Today, Amazon offers “The Four Seasons – An Earth Day Interactive Children’s Storybook” as a free download.

Google

One of Google’s goals for the products they create is to be good for the environment. A few points worth noting:

  • Google has been carbon neutral since 2007.
  • They are the largest corporate buyers of renewable energy on the planet.
  • Their data centers use 50 percent less energy than typical data centers.

“We live on a beautiful planet, and it’s the only one we’ve got,” says Sophie Diao, 2016 Google doodler.

To see a history of Google Earth Day doodles, visit: http://time.com/4304384/google-doodle-earth-day-2016/

Sophie Diao Google Doodler Earth Day 2016

Value Village 

A “clothing spill” appeared yesterday on Alki Beach. Electric Coffin, a creative company whose efforts were sponsored by Value Village, was deployed to create installation art made of discarded/donated clothing. The conical spirals appeared to be “poured” from an oil barrel into a “pool” of colored clothing at the base. Informational oil-barrel lids told more of the story to passersby. The work brings attention to the volume of textile waste generated by people each year, which averages to be 80 pounds per person in North America.

Sidewalk Art - composite © Terri Nakamura-small

Verizon 

In honor of Earth Day 2016, Verizon has made a commitment to plant 50,000 trees this year.

But on an everyday basis, Verizon is a good corporate and global citizen that works to protect our planet as well as better serve their customers. A few statistics of note:

  • Verizon has 206 Energy Star-certified stores, offices and centers
  • 289 of their retail stores are LEED-certified
  • Verizon has reused, repurposed or recycled 50 million mobile devices to date
  • Employees have collected and recycled 2.1 million pounds of e-waste.

Verizon impacts and how to make a difference

 

Whether you did something to honor Earth Day, or if  you did nothing more than enjoy family, friends and colleagues and the world around you, I hope we can all do things in the future to help make it possible to celebrate many more.


Apple, Google and Verizon images sourced at URLs cited; Alki and Value Village images shot by Terri Nakamura, using a Samsung Galaxy 7, courtesy of Verizon Wireless.

I’m proud to participate as a member of Verizon’s social media outreach team. My posts are about my own personal experiences.  No compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

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Shopping for a Living

Skybridge cropped

How do products end up in stores?

For nearly 20 years I created product labels and packaging. One of my clients, John Matthys, was a great mentor and friend. One of the things he championed was real-life market testing.

What is market testing?

The traditional way to test customer response was with focus groups.

Focus group testing enlists qualified participants who meet certain demographic criteria (age, gender, income levels, etc.). They’re assembled to view and respond to visual, conceptual, or theoretical goods or situations. Clients and research analysts often will watch through a two-way mirror, while participants offer feedback that helps companies anticipate how their products or services will perform.

It’s very expensive.

John realized the huge amount of money his company was paying to conduct focus groups exceeded the cost of actually producing products and placing them onto store shelves. What better feedback is there than getting real-life responses from his actual customers? So that’s what he did.

Market research and intuition

At our store, Alki Surf Shop, my husband, David Horsfall, and I have employed John’s strategy with many of our products. In addition, we also pay attention to trends, and stock inventory compatible with our store’s retro-modern brand and encompassing “Seattle, surf culture, beach and fun.”

Recently I spent four days at the Seattle Gift Show (pictured above). Shows like the Seattle Gift Show are for retail stores and businesses that sell merchandise to consumers. They are not open to the general public. There is an eclectic group in attendance. It’s akin to belonging to a special club where the members have something special in common: they’re all kind of crazy. I say that because retail is not for weenies. There are many easier ways to make money, but they’re maybe not as much fun.

Seen at the Seattle Gift Show

Tiny sample of things we saw at the Seattle Gift Show while shopping for Alki Surf Shop

I personally don’t enjoy shopping for sport. So if I find something I like, I’ll buy 2, 3, or even 9 of the same exact thing.

But the gift show isn’t like shopping for yourself. It’s more like you’re shopping to buy something for a friend, but you don’t know who the friend is, and you don’t know what the friend likes.

So you end up choosing things that you like, or imagine THEY would like. It’s a bit like mind reading. David often says I’m prescient. However, when it comes to buying for retail, it’s a semi-informed roll of the dice.

Shopping to buy for a store is hard work. We have ideas of what we might want, then search through myriad vendors and options. We compare sources, prices, quality and terms. Then if we decide to sell an item, we order it, price it, add it to our inventory, merchandise it, and track its sales.

Our real-life business education

As retail storeowners, we meet many nice, friendly people from all over the world. The flip side is, we devote so much time to nurturing this thing we’ve birthed, it leaves us with just a fraction of the free time we once had. That means we are spending much of our time with strangers, rather than family or friends.

That being said, we’re fortunate to have friends who are also fellow store and restaurant owners. They understand the relentless work it takes to make a business like ours succeed. They’ve shared their experiences to help us avoid mistakes, and generously given us great advice and support.

There’s a widely quoted statistic attributed to Bloomberg, that says eight out of 10 entrepreneurs who launch businesses fail within the first 18 months. Having recently passed that milestone, and seeing our sales increasing year-over-year, David and I feel slightly more confident about what we’re doing.

It’s a continual learning experience that’s both challenging and fun.

See how it all comes together

We’re gearing up for spring and summer and hope you’ll stop by if you’re in the area. We’ll have new items from the Seattle Gift Show on our shelves, and you’ll have the opportunity to be part of our real-life market testing.

There won’t be any two-way mirrors or research analysts. But you will be greeted with a friendly “Aloha!”


Postscript

This blog post went through seven revisions and was written entirely on a Motorola Droid Turbo 2 provided to me by Verizon Wireless.

It was fun writing in a café with only the Droid, a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, while curious onlookers stole glances!

Droid cropped

Working at Teavana in Seattle’s University Village, home to a Verizon Smart Store Plus

You can learn more about the Droid Turbo 2, the smartphone with the unbreakable screen, by visiting Verizon Wireless.


Disclosure: As a member of a great group of Verizon influencers, I’m invited to share my honest thoughts on cool products to use and test. No additional compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

All Photos @ Terri Nakamura 2016

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