It was an uplifting project that quickly took a depressing turn.
The goal was to visit three of the Sonics murals in Seattle, grab some photos and share a few stories about the memories those images preserve.
The theme of the project, though, shifted in an unexpected way. The murals were gone.
The first one, on the side of a bar on 45th in Wallingford has always been a welcome sight on the drive through the neighborhood. Painted on the side of what was once Goldie’s and then the Iron Bull before becoming The Octopus Bar, the mural featured several Seattle sports legends, from Ken Griffey Jr. and Steve Largent to Shawn Kemp and Kasey Keller.
The goal was to get a photo that focused on Kemp and look back at what the Reign Man means to Seattle.
And then I drove past the building. No mural.
I turned around. Drove past again. No mural.
I did a quick Google search. Confirmed the address. Double checked the location.
Instead, it was just a wall. The first frustrating moment in a disappointing day.
The second stop was at Pho Bac in Rainier Valley. I was excited about visiting this mural, a representation of Sonics culture and the logo’s meaning as it has been written into the city’s historical lexicon.
Then I turned and started to drive past the side of the restaurant. It looked different.
Wrong wall, maybe? I thought as I pulled into a parking spot on the street. I walked over and a NEW mural was in the process of being painted. I did a loop around the building just to be sure I had the right wall.
Now 0-2, I only had one stop left on my list – The Detlef Schrempf mural in Pioneer Square on 2nd Ave.
I drove over. Found parking and started walking. This is a mural I’ve passed many times, but like the other two murals, I walked right past. I knew I had gone too far, so I Googled the mural, confirmed I was in the right place and turned around.
I found the wall.
Then I looked closer. It was still there, just to the left of a blue tent. But it had been covered in graffiti. You can still see it through the lighter sections of white paint.
I was 0-3 and thoroughly disappointed by the journey. But, as Seattle grows and changes, landmarks are replaced. Murals are painted over.
The iconic Pink Elephant Car Wash sign is coming down and my favorite Sonics mural, the one of Schrempf dunking that was on the side of the old Athletic Supply Building came down with that building.
It’s disappointing when meaningful imagery is painted over or taken down. But it doesn’t change the cultural significance, the reasons those murals were painted in the first place.
And, on a positive note, thanks to @weirdocult (IG handle) there are new Sonics murals in the city – one that features Jack Sikma and another, freshly painted building that features Shawn Kemp and just happens to be featured on the side of the cannabis store that features the icon’s name.
So, while mourning the removal of some important Sonics imagery in Seattle, we can celebrate the newer arrivals and look forward to the future when the team returns and new murals emerge.
Until then, we’ll always have the memories.