Travel Thursday–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05

Spending the whole day in Santa Monica. . . that should sound better than it does; I already feel tired. . .

So, today on Travel Thursday–love the alliteration–the first of five days of intense squeezing-every-moment traveling amidst boring business stuff. So long it’ll have to come in installments, or I guess old skool would call it “serialized.”

MONDAY–LA
I like not having to prepare for a trip. Going to some place I haven’t been to before, or only once, I’d be researching for weeks, make sure I found all the places I wanted to see and made some kind of itinerary. But this is Seattle, a town I’ve been to so many times I probably know it almost as well as I know El Lay. Still, there were some places in the Emerald City I haven’t checked out yet, but I was more likely to get back to the Pacific Northwest–again–than Tanzania, so no big deal.
Okay, there was a bit of preparation, mostly physical. In the two weeks before the trip I took long walks every day, partly to think through all the stuff that had to be thought through–that’s when I do my best thinking, not counting pillow talk–but mostly as conditioning for all those Seattle hills. Two days before I left I went to a UCLA softball game–against the University of Washington, of all things; too bad all the girls I knew on that team had graduated, but that is more definitely another story. The stadium is on a hill on the northwest side of the UCLA campus, and this is one steep long climb, so I was happy to see I was only a little winded instead of gasping as usual. Then on Sunday I went to UCLA gymnastics, and climbing up the stairs in Pauley Pavilion a few times is a similar experience, so I felt I was as prepared as I could be.
But nothing can prepare you when you so hate waking up at six in the morning. . .
After an hour bus ride down Rosemead/Lakewood Blvd., and that is one long boring jaunt when you’re trying to stay awake, still had to transfer to a Long Beach bus to get to the Long Beach Airport. Yes, it was still quicker and closer than any other airport, but. . .
The perfectly named Long Beach Airport was probably built in the 40s and looks it, but not because it’s decrepit, I was speaking architecturally. In fact, it kinda reminded me of the background of the last scene in Casablanca. {I’ve been told since then that it’s built in the Streamline Moderne style, if any of you are into that sorta thing.} After a relatively quick check in–my first time doing it with a touch-screen rather than a human–I marched up the stairs to the Legends of Aviation Restaurant & Bar, and I gotta say, the second floor before entering the restaurant looked even more like a time warp! If the plane has propellers I’m staying home!
But then you enter the restaurant and things are back to normal. Since I still had a lot of time till my flight, though I haven’t gone through Search & Seizure yet, I tried to do everything in slow motion, savor every morsel, watch the planes land and take off–and gawking at my first sight of an actual LANCER!–and check out the waitress as often as possible, but even with all that I finally left and went off to have my shoes checked, along with other things.

Restaurant review: Legends of Aviation Restaurant & Bar
{Find the place where all the planes are taking off. Go into the only building. Climb to the second floor.}
Hey, much better than what you get on the plane!
Nowadays, in most modern airports, you have a large variety of eateries to choose from, most of them either fast food or way-overpriced. But in certain tiny flight hubs you may not get much of a choice, like at the Long Beach Airport, where the Legends of Aviation Restaurant & Bar, on the second floor of the terminal–okay, the only building–is the only game in town. Luckily it’s a good game.
The very cheerful waitress told me to have a seat anywhere, so of course I ambled off to grab a table near the windows that showed a view of the airfield. There was even a patio section, though I can’t imagine who would want to put up with all that noise! There was also a bar, but it might have been a better deal to face it away from the view of the landings and takeoffs. . . I’m just sayin’.
Okay, my waitress was a tiny perky brunette named Jessica who made the meal a lot more fun than I would have imagined. She had this enjoyable way of saying “You’re wel-come!” that I wish I could have taped. It got to the point where. . . there was this woman seated across the aisle from me who looked so totally bored that she was willing to spend a few minutes practicing her flirting technique on me, but the more time I spent smiling and semi-flirting with my waitress, the more pissed off she got.
The very first thing said between us was me telling her to take the previous tip away, because I didn’t want to be tempted. She laughed heartily and whisked the money into hiding, calling me a big goof; I’m surprised she didn’t hit me on the head with her pad. Not being in an adventurous mood. . . well, yeah, I never am when it comes to food, but certainly not when I might possibly get airsick, I had the bacon and eggs with wheat toast. You would think it’d be hard to screw up something so basic, but I’ve had too many bad breakfasts to not know better.
This one was not screwed up, in fact it was damned tasty, aided by the fact they got the bacon exactly how I liked it. While I don’t keep records the way I do with corn, that might be the second-best wheat toast I’ve ever had {the first being at the bus station in Duncan, Vancouver Island, Canada}. And like in all great eateries, the waitress has something to do with it, because if you get a surly server it somehow makes the food taste not as good, right?
And then there’s the view. I’m not a hard-core aviation buff, but I’ve flown on enough of them, especially in the Marine Corps and UN Peacekeeping, to recognize the C-130s and such dotting the hangers on the other side of the field, so no doubt this airport has a military component as well. I had to borrow some binoculars–smart of the restaurant to have them on hand–to see that it was indeed a Lancer off in the distance, the most beautiful plane ever built. It was pretty cool having both my senses of sight and taste so fully engaged at the same time. So if you’re the kinda person who loves watching planes, this is the perfect place for you!
Along with a big glass of milk my bill came to just over seven dollars, which is a great price anywhere but particularly in a spot where it’s the only alternative. And after paying I asked Jessica to put the change in my backpack, which I already had on, so it wouldn’t set off the metal detector when my bod passed through; she laughed and did so, though I can only assume that from the sound–she mighta kept a quarter, but I doubt it. The whole experience left me in a great mood to fly, an auspicious start to the trip.
{note: the restaurant had since been “remodeled,” so I can’t vouch for what it looks like now, or the prices. I just hope they were smart enough to keep the food tasty.
And keep Jessica.}

Back to our story. . .
To my surprise, the security checkpoint looked to be made out of those modular trailers you had in high school when there was no more room in the old buildings, and even more surprising was zooming right through. I guess I’m finally used to doing and undoing the laces in my boots, and luckily I was awake enough to wear matching socks.
As usual getting anywhere early, I spent the time reading, in this case most of the UCLA magazine, before going over to look at the snacks. The counter girl giggled as I bought an orange creamsickle and matching yoghurt–to balance the nutritional content, of course–and especially at my face when I saw that sushi–wrapped plastic container, at least–was on sale there too. I don’t know anyone who would take a risk on buying preserved sushi, but some people like to live on the edge. . . me, I’d like a condo two blocks from the edge. {Sorry, old joke}
Do you think they have a security camera in the airport restrooms? Considering this would be the place where someone in disguise would change, or possibly let loose a biological or chemical agent into the air vents, you’d have to think there would be, right? But still, what about inside the stalls? Do the guys in the security room develop a fetish? Are there blackmail tapes? Is that how they caught that Republican senator in Minneapolis? Do I really not want to know? Bingo.
It wasn’t till I sat back down to finish the other half of the UCLA magazine that I realized I was wearing my heavy Washington Huskies jacket {which I ended up never needing, but more on that later. . . SHIT! anyways.}
Finally on the plane, where everyone settled quickly and efficiently so that we took off on time. Can’t remember the last time an airport and flight went off like so much clockwork, though of course the thought jinxes it for next time. Huh.
Got a damn good view of the Lancer as we taxied–seriously, the most beautiful plane ever, some might dare call it. . . sexy? In the way cars can be sexy, of course.
Flight was short due to talking the whole way.

MONDAY–SEATTLE
Ah, Seattle. At times I consider this city to be the second most beautiful in the world, trailing only behind its neighbor to the north, Vancouver. The two are very similar; urban sprawl surrounded by, and dotted with, green landscapes everywhere, but the Canadian entry had the advantage of a small island of recreation right next to the downtown area, as well as a huge bridge with a tremendous view. But Seattle’s a close second. The sports stadiums and Space Needle notwithstanding, it has the feeling and atmosphere of a small village that just happens to go on and on.
But why is it every time I go to Seattle it’s sunny and hot? The last time I was in Portland it was over 100, so I’m afraid to go back there. Rainy Pacific Northwest, my muscular buttocks!
Despite a really easy time grabbing my big backpack from the luggage slide and then walking through what is one of my favorite airports–there’s always a pleasant surprise somewhere in the corridors–I missed the express bus and had to take the regular one, which stopped at every single block. The driver warned me about this, but what the hell, I was either napping or taking in the sights, most of them industrial, around the airport and northward with Puget Sound to the left. I will say there was everything from gangbangers to old rich people on the bus. I also noticed the sign that informed, “No eating, smoking, or littering. NO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES.” Which I guess means you can drink coffee or water or soda, which is different from most buses I’ve been in. And then a guy brought his dog on, another no-no in most places.
Then I had to transfer at Westlake, and didn’t think at the time to take the monorail. Still, this bus eventually left me a couple of blocks from the hotel, and I got to see that I had just missed the last Duck tour of the day as I walked by the tiny triangular block where they’re based; oh well again. {In 2009 there’s supposed to be a new trolley that’ll run from the airport to downtown and through the bus tunnel, but don’t hold your breath. . .}
As usual excited to get out and about, I emptied my day backpack of everything but camera gear and headed off north, where I had map-scouted a few parks in Queen Anne that were supposed to have tremendous views of the entire town. What the Thomas Guide isn’t good at showing is elevation–hey, if I coulda found a topo map of the area, I would have used it; it’s one thing to know such a place was a good lookout for some photos of the city, quite another to find yourself climbing some of the steepest streets you’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. And watching a beautiful blonde trudging along in front of you without a problem, then turn to smile benevolently when you reach a crest in the hill and pant for oxygen, is not conducive to good manners. Somehow I managed to gasp, “You do this every day?” only to have her shrug and respond, “You get used to it.” For that lack of sympathy I refrained from asking her to dinner, her loss. {Shut up. . .}
After finding out the first park was useless, and actually catching three people gawking out of their houses like I was a Martian, I checked the map and made my way west, through entire streets of mansions–and if you want to know what kind, just look at the name of the neighborhood–though I have to say the few people I encountered were a lot nicer; perhaps they were used to pedestrian tourists. Finally got to the coincidentally-named Kerry Park {hey, check the date!} and indeed found, after some more huffing. . . er, resting, that it was undeniably a fantastic place from which to photograph the city.
I musta spent at least an hour here, taking some photos, running out of inspiration, sitting on a bench and talking to tourists, then taking some more shots, then continuing the cycle round and round. {If you can guess that shout-out, I’ll send ya a CD} And speaking of inspirations, there was this one geeky-looking guy from Portland on his honeymoon with a model-worthy blonde who hung on his every word. Well, he was probably rich–at least that’s what I keep telling myself, to stay sane. Just about every other tourist was Asian! And more Koreans that Japanese, to my surprise.
Well-rested now, or as well as I was going to get, I plodded down Queen Anne Avenue. It was probably an even steeper hill than the one I climbed, which is pretty bad going down too, partially because I get shin splits, but mostly because gravity urges me to go faster. This area was different from the mansions, reminding me of Vermont or Hillcrest in Los Feliz, El Lay, with its profundity of old-style apartments. At this point I accidentally flicked a switch on my portable CD player and discovered, after a couple of years of ownership, that it had a radio too. Finally, after a good half hour of walking and tons of buses zooming by me, I got to the business district, and immediately found a Kidd Valley.
For those of you not in the know, Kidd Valley is a small local chain of burger joints that, ever since I’ve been coming here, has been known as having the best burger in town. Since I’d always gone to the one north of the University, I had no idea I’d be running into another one, but my mouth instantly started salivating. . . until I got inside. If I were to dig hard enough in my map cabinet I’m sure I could find an old receipt that would have stated a middle-of-the-road-or-menu burger going for about a buck fifty. {Another reference that might get ya a CD.} But now the cheapest burger is $3.39! When did that happen? Age-ol’ story of good reviews and greed, sigh. I ended up going to a market and buying a loaf of pound cake and assorted veggies, since my hotel room had a mini-fridge.
Also in this neighborhood, which reminded me of parts of Hollywood south of Sunset and to the east, were plenty of used book stores that also contained records, DVDs, and even cameras. I ended up browsing a lot longer than I thought, and then I ended up on the opposite side of Seattle Center than I needed to be, behind Key Arena.
As I noticed the giant indoor stadium to my left, a guy shoots out of the darkness and offers me a very discounted ticket to the playoff game going on inside. I kept all my hair–get it?–and walked on my not-so-merry way, noticing that stadium had an all-glass exterior on this side, and the people looked like ants scurrying for food. Instead of humans scurrying for food, I guess. It must’ve been halftime, or else the game wasn’t going as well as they’d hoped; some were already leaving.
Couldn’t help but notice that, unlike most stadiums you see, this one had cheap brick apartments across First Street. Kinda like the ones outside Wrigley Field in Chicago, I guess, except you can’t see the basketball game from these. Down the block were Taqueria Jalisco and another Mexican place, which peaked my interest for a moment, until I saw that, unlike their names, they were not mom & pop type small eateries, but rather more like the horrible Acapulco and other bad chains of “Americanized” Mexican food. Ya know, if you try to order anything from those menus in Mexico, they would have no idea what you’re talking about! Since I didn’t go in, that’s as much of a review as you’re gonna get.
Not wanting to chance Seattle Center being closed, I walked around the periphery until I staggered into the McD’s and took the burger, fries, and my market purchases back to the hotel, where I promptly collapsed.
After a couple of hours of rest and watching TV, I reached for the tripod in my big backpack and went up to the fourth floor of the hotel–no roof access–to try to get some night shots of the Space Needle. I could plainly see people still up there in the well-lighted disk, but even with center-weighted metering I couldn’t seem to get a good-enough shot. Since it was obviously still open, I thought of going over and getting some shots of the city lights, but then I remembered the reason I’d decided not to on this trip.
Still fresh in my memory from my last visit was a girl who worked up there, at the gift shop counter, who seemed way too blasé about being up in the sky every day. Yes, I know it’s human nature and blah blah, but it got to me. Someone asked her how she enjoyed the view, and she simply shrugged.
“Just another job.”
“Don’t you ever look out anymore? You must have when you first started.”
“Got boring quickly.”
And so did you, babe.
Feeling sleepy at around ten–which is shocking until you remember how early I had to wake–I went back to the room and puttered around, making sure everything was ready for the presentation in the morning. My last thought was “I have no idea why that full-length mirror is where it is in the bathroom–I don’t need to see myself piss.”

;o)

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7 thoughts on “Travel Thursday–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05

  1. Seattle really is a beautiful city! Which hotel did you happen to stay in? The Hampton Inn Rooms are quite nice – clean and spacious. Great place to stay!

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    • It seems each time I stay in a dif part of town: U district, Pioneer, etc. This time I stayed a few blocks east of Seattle Center, but I don’t remember the name.

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