Just north of the barrel pyramids, nestled between W Marginal Way S and the Duwamish, lies a park owned by the Port of Seattle.
For a moment, you wish you hadn’t found it.
The viewpoint is located next to a facility whose owners are clearly not fond of visitors. Depending on which part of the internet you believe, this is either part of the Terminal 115 complex or it belongs to an angry group of divers for hire.
Either way, you wisely decide to stay on the legal side of the fence.
Electric lines cross the Duwamish in front of you, taking advantage of what is effectively the most narrow point in the river at this stage in its controlled meandering.
This is also where the First Avenue South Bridge crosses the river. Yet another drawbridge in a city of drawbridges, this one was built in the mid-1950s and has undergone several moments of reconstruction. At one point in time, it had the honor of having the highest accident rate in the state.
So this is Terminal 115 Viewpoint. Unfortunately, you can’t really see much of Terminal 115, so you can’t reflect on the ways in which the cargo cult has gained acolytes in this day and age. There’s a river and a bridge. The river is here because we couldn’t really move it, and the bridge is here because we needed a workaround for the river.
So you walk down the Duwamish shoreline next to the barbed wire and look out across the river. Sunshine makes the day beautiful, and the toxic water is almost inviting. The bridge architecture is not unlike that of prison guard towers you’ve seen in movies, and the aesthetic is gritty and industrial. If Seattle were Berlin, this would have to be part of its Wall.
It’s not a place that invites you in. Instead, it begrudgingly admits its status as a viewpoint, unhappily tolerating your presence while wondering why you’re here. This park is under martial law.
The park’s mood changes from hostility to sadness when you see the derelict shack by the river.
The weathered boards and sunken floats conjure up images of your grandfather’s Seattle. A time when men were men, fish didn’t glow in the dark, and nobody needed a “toxic shellfish” sign in Vietnamese to know when them thar mussels weren’t in their prime.
The mind’s eye imagines trees growing by the banks of a river, shadowing an old man living in a fishing hut. The mind’s eye sees salmon navigating unconstrained waters to die in their very own spawning grounds, a cycle of continuous change kept in motion by everlasting stasis. The minds eye see the cycle broken by a tribe with a different plan in mind, powered by the stored energy of millions of solar cycles.
The mind’s eye also sees a more prosaic reality: a storage shed poorly built allowed to weather the rains and fall into ruin at its own pace, protected by wire from trespassers and adorned by every season’s supply of fresh invasive weeds.
Terminal 115 Viewpoint offers little else to the mere human.
A dusty shoreline littered with plastic garbage. A bench where the lost, incautious or homeless might rest. The fulfillment of a rash promise made by industry – to provide the unwashed masses with token ways to dodge the container ships and reach the river’s edge. A group of sad-looking trees.
And in the distance, the ghost of the Duwamish.
The complete Flickr set.