African Store Descending a Closure

Ok, guys. I’ve been to the place formerly known as the Seattle Museum of Mysteries.* I touched a yeti hair. And recently, I smelled bone-released myrrh. What I’m saying is that I have both a comfort with and an attraction to the inexplicable. It informs much of what I seek and love.

And yet, this has been baffling me for years.

africa mama seattleYes. I am talking about Africa Mama.

I have lived here since 2004. The store was closing when I first set foot on the Hill, back in those halcyon days. I think it may, at this point, have been dying for longer than it’s been alive.

I did a little hunting to see if anyone else has been recording the endless legend of this place. I found a Yelp page for their former location and a 2011 KOMO article… about it closing. Note the exasperation in the headline.

So my impression has always been that it’s a store that takes advantage of cheaper short leases, a la this space in the soon-to-be-transformed building on Broadway just south of Olive. And yet it reincarnates like its using god mode or something.

Someone told me once – probably back in 2006, when I was already wondering out loud about this – that there are laws that are meant to keep people from this kind of constant clearance farce. But tell that to the dude who will be waving the FINAL CLEARANCE!!!! signs at the corner of Olive and Broadway tomorrow.

I admire its tenacity, I guess? And yet, like reality shows, tanning salons, and other things I don’t get, they persist in a way that’s more annoying than it should be.

After the apocalypse: cockroaches, Twinkies… and Africa Mama.



*Its old location. Clearly I need to go again.

Bleh, Bumbershoot.

No. NO.

No. NO.

I should preface this by saying that I don’t really like big music festivals even when I think they’re impeccably run. I see live music now and then, but I’m often dissuaded by the lack of seating, the way cement floors make one’s lower back feel, and the rampaging elbows of drunks.* Since a lot of these things are amplified at big outdoor music to-dos, they’re generally not my cup of tea.

However, my beef with Bumbershoot is different. The first time the System of it was explained to me, I blinked and asked the person to repeat it. Patiently, they said again:

  • You buy a ticket for the festival with real cash money.
  • This ticket gets you through the gate, for which you stand in a long line.
  • Then you get inside and find the line for the music or comedy tickets.
  • Then you stand in another long line, at the end of which you may or may not be rewarded with special, magical additional tickets to the shows you actually want to see.
  • If you don’t get tickets, you slink away, sad, and proceed to half-heartedly see a bunch of stuff you don’t really care so much about – and that apparently no one else does either.
  • Profit?

“Why wouldn’t I just wait for Patton Oswalt to come back on regular tour so that I’d be guaranteed to see him?” I asked.

There wasn’t an answer for that one.

Who devised this? And how does it seem to make sense to so very many people? Because I’ve been in Seattle for coming up on eight Bumbershoots now, and I still find it baffling.

I went once. I got a free ticket for participating in an arts event, which ordinarily would make me more forgiving of idiosyncrasies.** Gamely, I stood in line for comedy tickets – I even went early! – only to watch every. single. event I’d identified as being even faintly of interest to me be covered up with sad SOLD OUT signs on the big grid o’ events as the line lurched forward.

I turned to my friend. “So it’s exactly the shit I always thought it would be?” He nodded.

Bleh, Bumbershoot. I’m content, like with most things that just aren’t for me, to stay away. But every year around this time, I wonder: what the hell do other sensible people see in this borked system?

Can you tell me? No one has been able to so far.

*Yes, I am occasionally a sour old cow, despite not being old or cow-like.

**I am also cheap and easily bought sometimes.