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Thursday, May 16, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Ron C. Judd / Times staff columnist

It's summer, but maybe we should just stay home

Ah, summer.

We know it's here — or at least near — because down at Seattle City Hall the other day, we noticed they were no longer demanding an arm and a leg from each citizen to settle outstanding City Light bills from last winter.

These days, they'll settle for a hand or a foot, delivered fresh to the desk of Mayor Greg "Buffalo" Nickels.

See? Occasional downtown riots notwithstanding, this is how relaxed all the real locals around here get as soon as the temperature soars into the sweltering lower 60s. It's like Palm Springs without the palms. Or the springs.

Never mind.

The point: Most of the year, we sit in the Lincoln Navigator in a line behind 2.16 million other Lincoln Navigators and Nokia-in complaints to talk-radio hosts about egregious state transportation taxes.

But in the summer, we're a different sort.

Relaxed. Confident. Far less likely to file suit against government agencies to recoup damages caused when waves from a passenger ferry — who knew? — crash on our saltwater beaches.

This is the time of year, in other words, when Seattleites crawl out from underneath the Big Blue Tarp and see their region for what it really is: Screwed up beyond all recognition.

No, seriously: majestic, cosmopolitan, friendly and fascinating.

If you're new to this area, or just visiting, and don't believe us, give it a try yourself.

We hate to bring bad news, but by the time you read this, you're already too late to partake in the biggest, baddest, wildest party to grace the Northwest each summer. But there's always time to plan next year's trek to the Sequim Irrigation Festival.

Meanwhile, head out the door and partake in some of Proper Seattle's favorite summer activities:

• Get out of your hotel/dorm room/Barcalounger and make acquaintances. One idea: Attending a Seattle Storm game is a good way to meet five or six people on a good night. (Note: Most of these will be from out of town.)

• Drive to Tacoma. Take the Highway 16 exit. See if you can make it to the Narrows Bridge in a span of time equal to or less than saying "Nalley Valley Viaduct," really fast, 1,162 times.

• Go down to Seattle Center, find that cutting-edge music exhibit, the Experience Music Project (popularly known locally as the Wreck of the Partridge Family Bus), and ask to see their bluegrass collection.

• Visit the Museum of Flight, one of Seattle's most interesting exhibits. Be advised, though, that the coolest old plane in town lurks down the road a piece: Old 747 No. 1, the red and white one, sits unceremoniously in a parking lot alongside Boeing Field. A lot of us who saw it make its first flight on Feb. 9, 1969, will no longer admit to being there, as this verifies our unjust and completely unbelievable 40-something age bracket.

• Go down to the Ballard Locks about noon on any sunny Friday. Wave hello to our bosses engaging in important "team-building" exercises involving Lexan margarita glasses and giant Costco barrels of pretzels.

• Take a tour of the new Seahawks football stadium, that large, white, Venus-fly-trap-shaped building along the waterfront. The stadium was built by a grateful public for billionaire hobbyist Paul Allen, who threatened not to let future generations of Seattleites experience the character-building process of enduring really bad professional football unless we provided a new and better place in which to endure it.

Incidentally, while you're there, you can probably have the stadium named after yourself, your family members, your dog or even your car for a few dozen million. If you miss out, don't worry: There will always be another one.

• Take a walk in one of our local peaceful, pristine, unsullied, pure, inspiring and ethereal wilderness areas, sponsored by Dow Chemical. Please set your cellphone on "silent" so as not to disturb the several thousand other people attempting to phone their nannies from behind nearby trees.

• Visit the Burke Museum of Natural History, perhaps the only place in the city where a helpful professional can provide answers to questions that have long puzzled people in line down at Ivar's, including: "The Gutter Helmet: Rooftop Apparatus or Birth Control Device?"

• Sponsor an initiative, place it on the ballot, gloat about your victory. In these parts, it doesn't take all that much time, effort or, for that matter, the common sense God gave a railroad tie to turn government on its head. Handy tip: Most of the more popular local initiatives in recent years have been those that cut "waste and inefficiency" from government by stripping away its ability to do anything more complicated than harvesting milfoil.

• Drive down to Tukwila and attempt to find the marketing geniuses who decided to replace the name of Southcenter Mall with the much catchier "Westfield Shoppingtown Southcenter."

• Hang around the University of Washington campus for 30 minutes or so — just long enough to get inappropriately recruited by a member of the Husky football coaching staff.

• If all else fails, there's baseball. Go see the Seattle Mariners, a team with the greatest second baseman in the history of the universe.

Just ask him.

Ron C. Judd's outdoors columns appear in Sunday's sports section and Thursday's Northwest Weekend section. Phone: 206-464-8280; e-mail rjudd@seattletimes.com.

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