Making my way home from Monterey, Iâ€™m in Seattle for meetings. The city is at its best in the late September sun. People downtown walk around with smiles on their faces, not thinking about the rainy season to come. Many of the hundreds of coffee places have tables on the sidewalk, and the tables are full of sippers watching street life. North of downtown, runners and walkers are six deep on the path around Green Lake. They form one of the worldâ€™s great urban parades in a setting like a painting.
I had dinner last night with three friends; Malcolm Harris, the publisher of my biography of Paul Desmond; Ted Van Dyk, retired as one of Washington DCâ€™s canniest political consultants, now a columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; and Jack Brownlow, the dean of Pacific Northwest jazz pianists. The conversation ranged across music, sports, books and politics. Much of it concerned leadershipâ€”national and local, with the aftermath of Katrina the focus. As he made clear in a recent column, Ted sees parallels between weaknesses at the top in New Orleans and Seattle.
Seattle does not suffer from New Orleans’ pervasive cash-in-envelope corruption. But it does suffer from policy corruption facilitated by complacency and incompetence just as serious as the Big Easy’s.
You can read all of Tedâ€™s column here. Keep an eye out for a memoir of his life in politics. The University of Washington Press will publish it next year. Van Dyk is one of our most trenchant and forthright analysts of public policy issues. As Hubert Humphreyâ€™s right-hand man before and after Humphrey became Lyndon Johnsonâ€™s vice president, Van was an insider during the civil rights struggles of the sixties, Johnsonâ€™s Viet Nam agony and political developments through the end of the twentieth century.
Jack Brownlow, at 81, has doggedly refused to let a round of health problems put him out of commission. He is gigging less, but a stream of colleagues comes to his house to play music with him and learn from him. He is an inspiration to them, as he has been to me since I was sixteen.
I’m not the only one in town fresh from Monterey. Carla Bley and her Lost Chords quartet are at Jazz Alley through tonight, Wednesday, following Bley’s double triumph at the Monterey festival.