Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 1, Part 2

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 has 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.
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 Kerry Park 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. 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. And just about every other tourist was Asian, though 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 mp3 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. 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 the 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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