Uluru, Ayers Rock, Australia, Alice Springs, Outback, Australian Outback

Travel Thursday Encore: Alicia from Alice Springs

My first time in Australia I got to see. . . pretty much nothing, since I landed in Sydney after a damn long flight and was moved right to a military plane for the hop to Alice Springs; I was asleep and never got to see Ayers Rock out the window either.

Uluru, Ayers Rock, Australia, Alice Springs, Outback, Australian Outback
For those who don’t know, if there’s any of you left, there’s a “top secret” military base near Alice Springs, basically a place to download all the stuff coming down from the satellites and spy on Russia and China and who knows who else. But even though it’s no big secret anymore, it’s still very security conscious, and I was joining a team looking into possible leaks from either the personnel or the workers, like janitors and such.
I don’t know if there was no room left on the base, or whether they expected us to check out those workers at home, but we were put up in a hotel on the outskirts of town, where I slept away most of the day. Luckily Alice isn’t that big, but when it’s 110 degrees it’s big enough. Anyway, I was going downtown for the first time to find a place to eat before I started work the next day.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it seemed like a typical small Midwestern American town. I saw a regular-looking school on my walk, and a few blocks later there was a gym with beautiful women doing aerobics through the window. Next to it was a porn shop, which I did not go into! {At least not on that walk.} I might have watched the aerobics class for a while, had it not been so hot. And the odds were not very strong that the porn shop might have air conditioning. Besides, I was hungry.
As I looked away from the aerobics babes, I saw this incredibly beautiful blonde walking toward me. It was even more of a shock as I realized she was the last thing I expected in the middle of the Australian desert. Why wasn’t she in Sydney, or Hollywood?
I’m sure I was gawking at her, and she seemed to have a slight smile in place, like she was usta being stared at by horny guys, particularly Americans, and had learned to accept it and maybe even have fun with.
Anyway, one of the things every resident and visitor to the area remembers is the flies. They’re huge, and there’s billions of them. Everywhere. You can’t escape them. On my next trip I bought a face net at Uluru, they sell by the thousands. The reason this is important is because as I’m gawking at her, a fly lands right on my nose!
Well, if you’re gonna bright side it, at least it didn’t go into my gawking mouth. In irritation I move my hand up to brush it away, but forgot I was wearing a cap. I hit the brim instead and caused the cap to fall over my face, blocking the view of this wondrous creature.
So I yank the cap away, feeling incredibly sheepish, especially when I see she stopped in her tracks and was bent over laughing. Wonderful. . .
A couple of days later I found an air-conditioned mall during my explorations. I was surprised to find such a thing in what’s really a small town, and even more surprised to find it so empty. Later I was told it was built to attract the Americans from the base, so they got most of their business at night. Anyway, I wandered the stores until I came to a sports shop, not so much the kind that hawk equipment, but like the ones in the malls in the US, where they sell caps and jerseys and such of professional teams.
Just for the heck of it, I went in to see what teams they sold. I was hoping the local teams would have better names than just Kangaroos and Koalas. Turns out some of them had the same names we do, like Lions and such, although there was an Aussie Rules team named the Swans! That doesn’t figure, not very masculine.
But then I see they have a whole American section, Mostly basketball, but some football and even baseball. . .
And then, as if it had been waiting for me all my life, I spotted a UCLA cap.
So what? you’re thinking, you must have dozens. But this was a classic, literally. They’d only made a few of these, blue with gold lettering; they’re making them again now, but you can tell the difference. Rumor has it some fans steal the old ones, right off of people’s heads.
So I immediately grab the cap before anyone can beat me to it and march right to the front counter. . . well, it was a small store, so it wasn’t much of a march, and it was the only counter. I hadn’t seen anyone working there, but since the door was open, I figured someone would eventually show up. I didn’t want to go outside to check because I wasn’t letting the cap out of my sight, and they probably had those sensors on the door, so as I waited I checked out the goofy keychains in those little racks on the counter, which is what I was looking at when I heard this voice say “Try to keep this one on your head.”
Yes, our heroine finally arrives. I wondered just what a woman like that would be buying here, only to discover she was the clerk! Of all the really dumb luck!
Anyway, one thing led to another and we ended up going to dinner that night. We became friends, and you’ll never guess what she does now.
She works for the Australian version of the FBI. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore: Suzette in Salzburg

Sometimes you meet people in the most painful ways. . .

 

Salzburg, Europe, river
I shot this photo from the castle up on the hill in Salzburg, and didn’t realize I would be walking in exactly the same place about an hour later, still taking photos. There really isn’t that much to do in this town in the morning.
A few minutes later I heard a thudding behind me, so of course I turned to see what was causing it, tremendously surprised by what I saw: a tall blonde was jogging toward me, still some distance away but closing in a hurry. Luckily I didn’t wonder why she was making the ground thud so hard–she wasn’t that big.
More amusing, I could plainly see each and every male, from the little ones in school clothes to the old geezers wheezing on the benches, had stopped in their tracks to stare at her, which was all the excuse I needed to gaze at her too. I moved over next to an empty bench to give her room and watch the performance; with a little more warning, I woulda brought my camera up as I wondered if these old guys were here for what was an everyday show.
As she came closer, I could see she was smiling. . . at me. Perhaps I was the first healthy person she’d seen on her jog–the town does run a bit old–and as such was the only one who could appreciate what she was doing. She had no idea my knee was throbbing just from the walking, and watching her pound the pavement.
Even though I hadn’t gotten my camera into position, my mind still went into shooting mode. First thing I noticed was the blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, bouncing from side to side as she ran. That wasn’t the only thing bouncing, of course, but as I continued watching her, I couldn’t help but notice she wasn’t a very efficient runner. Her arms were flapping all over the place, not helping her movements, even hindering them by increasing wind resistance. But that thought quickly fled as she came closer and I saw she was encased in a white sweatshirt and purple tights. Her facial beauty needed no make-up, and her blonde ponytail flapped in the breeze created by her running, all conspiring to make her look younger than she obviously was.
She was looking at me, not the path, as she arrived near my position. I’d seen her dodging previous puddles–snow melt, in this suddenly fierce heat–but there was no way she could react in time to avoid this one. Her foot came down hard and the water splashed my leg.
When she swerved, I had the horrifying thought that she would tumble down the grass slope and into the very chilly river. But before I could move, she was filling my eyesight with her body, slipping toward me at high speed. My reflexes as far as my arms were concerned were up to the task, catching her delightful body, but I had no time to switch my weight, and as a consequence we went tumbling onto the wet bench, which was far better than the wet grass we had just avoided but also far harder.
Neither of us said anything for the next few minutes, out of breath, wet, and in some pain. The bumped knees hadn’t helped either, since mine had already been hurting and the collision made it ten times worse. I was sure her knee felt the same way, since she might have sprained it while sliding through the puddle. Her ankle could be sprained as well.
But I didn’t say this right away; her elbow had crashed into my stomach and knocked the wind out of me, and my backpack had smacked hard into the bench and bounced back against my side, so I gasped like a bloated fish while she cried softly in pain.
Yet when I looked up at her and saw she was looking back, I knew we were both struggling not to laugh. There was still pain in our gazes and gasps, but neither of us wanted to be the first to lose control.
Finally I asked, “Are you always this shy?” which forced her control and caused her to let out a burst of uncontrollable giggles, punctuated by tiny sobs of pain.
Taking a deep breath–now that I could–I stood up to test my knee; there was only a small twinge when I straightened it. I knew knee bumps were painful–very painful, bump into a car fender at full speed while playing with your dog and you’ll see–for only a few minutes, after which they settled down to tenderness for the rest of the day. The previous pain I had in the knee always went away with rest, and I’d had plenty of that in the last few minutes. Despite the heat of the sun, the air was still cold, and I was glad I was wearing thermals underneath the jeans; the water from the bench hadn’t soaked through to my skin. Even my hands were dry, thanks to the gloves, though the camera had taken a knock against both our chests.
It was a different story for her, though. I could see patches of wetness across her purple tights and, more importantly, her white sweater. As a matter of fact, I could see the entire curve of the outer side of her left breast, the sweater and white bra having been rendered transparent by the wetness.
Finally she tried to get up, but gave a little whimper as soon as she put weight on her foot and fell back against me. Luckily this time I was ready, and in the mood for helping a damsel in this dress. In full hero mode now, I proved my reflexes were up to speed when I saw her bend down, wincing at the pain in her knee, to take off her right jogging shoe; my hand shot out to stop her.
No doubt due to the cold and nothing else, an amazing spark shot out on contact between our hands. Usually I would have pulled back, but this current made me grip her hand tighter, and I could tell it had the same kind of effect on her.
I gazed into her lovely face, finding t full of puzzlement, so I said, struggling to remember some of the words in German, “If you leave your foot confined, it won’t swell. Believe me, I’ve had enough of these to know.”
She relaxed and leaned back a little, and I heard her voice for the first time, thankfully in English. “Since you seem to be such an expert, I put myself entirely in your hands.” With that said, she leaned completely back onto the bench, satisfied, until she touched the wet metal and recoiled. Only then did she realize how cold and wet she was; despite the heat having an effect on the day, it was still breezy and the air cool.
Suddenly she was gazing at me, in a sultry way, I thought. “If my hero can get me back to my apartment before I freeze to death, I will give him a major reward. It is only a few blocks away.”
I looked into her eyes, a unique shade of purple, acutely aware of her panting mouth, her wet breasts heaving against the white sweatshirt, and those fabulous legs. . . all while looking deep into those wide violet eyes, my peripheral vision saved the day again.
“Taxi!”

;o)

Travel Thursday: Culver City

So this one day my landlady tells me they’re going to throw a party in the driveway in front of my room in the rear house, and the music would be blaring from the garage underneath me, so I should probably plan to be out that afternoon and night. She knocked $100 off the rent, so I figured I could find something to do. I idly wondered if there might be enough parties each month for me to live there rent free, but didn’t say anything as I searched for someplace to go. Unfortunately all of the UCLA sports teams were either away or playing the next day, and I didn’t feel like shelling out all of that rebate on a theater or concert ticket. There were no movies I wanted to see either, so it took a while to figure out what to do.
What I finally decided on was a visit to a part of Los Angeles I hadn’t been to in years, Culver City. A number of factors took me to this decision, not the least being a station on the Expo line stopping right there, but the most important was the fact that soon I would have a doctor’s appointment out there and wanted to scope out the place so I wouldn’t be late when it finally arrived.
But of course I had plenty of time to waste, so once I got downtown I sat down at my favorite place on Olvera Street, Juanita’s, for my usual bean and cheese burrito, followed by the requisite vanilla soft serve at Miss Kitty’s. But since it was the weekend the usual guys I know weren’t on duty, so in the end I didn’t spend much time there before heading back to Union Station to catch the subway and then transfer to the Expo line.
Other than having to play undercover amongst a sea of Trojan fans—already heading to the tailgates six hours before the game!—it was a boring long trip to Culver City, with my headphones full of an audiobook, something I’ve recently tried again and liked a lot more than previous attempts, when it would put me to sleep. Remembering that the last time I was on this line was the same day I’d hurt my elbow while shooting beach volleyball at Santa Monica, I forced myself to think of brighter things, but none came to mind as the train arrived and spat me out.
Heading out of the train station, there’s construction going on, so it’s hard to get a sense for the street geography, and indeed I took a wrong turn. In my defense, it’s a very strange crossing of three thoroughfares at weird angles, and when I finally got to check the map on my phone I saw that it didn’t matter all that much, at least as far as my first goal, the doctor’s office. And I actually enjoyed this walk, finding a future place to eat—amongst many—as well as some interesting buildings and places I’d vaguely heard of.
Once I turned onto the street in question and located the building I needed, I kept going onto Venice, where I headed back in the direction I came, having seen a couple of things on the map I wanted to check out. Most importantly was the In ‘N’ Out, but that was for later. The first target was The Ripped Bodice, but before I got there I came across a beautiful curly-haired brunette wearing a floral dress and knee-high black boots. That combination shouldn’t work—I’m a photographer, I’m supposed to know these things—but she rocked it. I even made her dimple when I mentioned boots never go out of style. This was definitely a case of my friend Cheryl’s lyric of “I fall in love at least four times a day.”
But finally I did get to the romance bookstore, which was just as idiosyncratic as the mystery and sci-fi stores of the past. There was some funky though expected décor, quirky merchandise that was only peripherally book-related, and less books than I expected, since the place was pretty small. I had the most fun in the erotica section, of course, though I did find something from one of my fave authors. . . who writes hard sci-fi! And the Millennium Falcon made an appearance too. . . unlike the men’s books.
Catherine Asaro, romance, sci-fi, hard sci-fi, science fiction, bookstore, romance bookstore

romance bookstore, phone stand, Millennium Falcon, Star  Wars

romance bookstore, men's fiction, empty bookspace

Made a brief stop at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which was a low-key bucket list-type place, but didn’t get to do much because it was near closing time. Besides, they don’t allow photos. I’ll probably try again when I have that doctor’s appointment, and hopefully I’ll remember to take notes.
Next up, though I still wasn’t that hungry, was In ‘n’ Out. This was the smallest of the chain I’ve ever seen, particularly when you see the line for the drive-thru blocking cars trying to get out of their spaces in the parking lot, so I had to stand around looking awkward while holding up a wall until my special order finally showed up. As I exited I heard music coming from the park across the street, so I figured listening up close would be a fun way to spend the time eating, and boy was I right.
I ended up staying two hours there, listening to the band of congas—well, not so much a band as a weekly jam—before they called it quits, but long enough to catch a couple of videos.

Talked to some of the musicians after—Señor Yum Yum, seriously?—but soon enough it was time to move on. Figuring there was nothing left for me there, I headed for the train station, only to be joined in my walk by a beautiful redhead who engaged me in small talk. Since this kind of thing doesn’t happen to me, I knew she had some ulterior motive, but as long as it didn’t require me reaching for my wallet I figured I’d indulge her, and myself, of course. Have I ever mentioned how much I love redheads? (Check the title of this blog site. . .)
So, after a long enough time for me to fall in love yet again—see above, about the song lyric—she saw we were close to the train station and pointed across the street, informing me brightly that it was a strip club full of girls as beautiful as her. I told her I doubted that, which seemed to make her blush, then patted her on the shoulder and moved on without a goodbye. I hoped I didn’t daydream too obviously on the train. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 4, Part 2

Finally got to the bottom of Pike Place, but did not go all the way back to the waterfront I strolled by just last night. Instead, checking the schedule, I sat myself down at the stop and waited for the trolley, line 99, once in a while talking to the impatient German or Dutch tourist who claimed to have been waiting for an hour, which I doubted. But he did have a point, the thing did not come at its regularly scheduled time, and when it did, I saw how harried the female driver was, so I didn’t say anything. To my surprise, there was a girl about ten years old–this one was easy to gauge–who took my money and, when everyone was sitting down, yelled, “Go, Mom!” Was it Take Your Daughter to Work day? I really hoped not, because if it was, all my musings about the little brunette fruit seller being legal went out the skylight. Yikes! I do so hate it when a lovely memory is so tarnished, sigh. . .
Got off a few stops later at the ferry terminal, and decided “Why not?” I’d been on Bainbridge Island before and knew a good place to eat, and the boat was leaving in five minutes, so I quickly bought a ticket and hopped on. I’ve got a new slogan for them if they’re reading: Washington State Ferries: Howz a little Puget Sound?
Is there any better way to cool down on a warm day than to let the wind blow through your hair and blast your face? As long as the ship is big enough so you don’t get seasick, there’s no better way to relax for an hour or so than on a ferry ride around Puget Sound. Somehow this was better than the Harbor Cruise I’d taken a few years ago, despite the two redheads I met on. . . but I digress yet again. It seems that when taking a tour you feel like you HAVE to look at everything, all the touristy things the guide points out; this is even true on a boat tour, which is why it’s so much better on regular public transportation, where you can look at anything you want or nothing at all.
I went immediately to the top deck, where I was met–literally ran into–two fully-black-clad, down to the shades, “cops” in short sleeves and shaved heads. If it wasn’t for the Belgian on the leash–a dog, silly!–I’d wonder if these guys were hired actors, they looked the part so well. If it had been hired security by the ferry company, I might wonder if they were trying to stop thefts, but since these were cops–might have even been Feds–the answer’s pretty obvious. Though from my experience I don’t see why a ferry would be considered that great of a terrorism target, but okay.
Like the girl who worked at the Space Needle who was bored at looking outside, there were plenty of people on board who were into books, computers, cell phones, or listening to music with their eyes closed, completely blasé about the view. I can’t imagine getting jaded at vistas like these. In addition to all the preeeety trees in just about every direction, there were plenty of cold rocky beaches, some with timbers strewn about. There was also what appeared to be a small town right on the beach, just one row of large buildings before the cliff, which made me wonder how anyone got anywhere there–no dock, no road, no way to come down the cliff. . .

Seattle, ferry, Seattle ferry

Seattle, ferry, Seattle ferry Seattle, shore, rocky shoreline, mansion, mansions, beach mansions
Since I’m a total explorer I went off to check out every part of the ship, as always ending up in front, where the wind blew my hoodie right off my head the moment I stepped around the corner. Had I put on the cap it would have been at the other end of the boat in a couple of seconds, so I simply stayed there talking to a couple from Montana while my sneering ego wondered if I was going to meet any gal who would take one look at my windblown hair and laugh. . .
The trip back from Bainbridge island was ever better, sight-wise, with a wonderful view of the cityscape, from the Space Needle to all the skyscrapers to Smith Tower, looking all lonely to the right. If you knew enough of the city landmarks you could spot the sports stadiums around Pioneer Square.. . hey, there are much worse ways to spend an hour!

Seattle, downtown, skyscrapers, ocean, Puget Sound

Seattle, ferry, Puget Sound

Seattle, skyline, Seattle skyline, downtown, Seattle downtown, skyscrapers, ferry Puget Sound, ocean
The place I was going to eat at on the island had been closed, and now that I was out of grapes and getting hungry again, I wasn’t about to waste time searching, so I walked the few blocks to the Metropolitan Grill, feeling completely out of place looking touristy and taking my cap off to reveal all that windblown hair.
I am not a food snob by any means–I know the locations of McDonald’s in most major cities around the world–but for once I was going to go to a place I’d always heard of, but never thought I would ever step inside, just for the novelty.
Turned out I was the novelty: every customer there, the women as well, was wearing a suit, but neither the seater nor the waitress–Hi, Autumn!–raised an eyebrow at my touristy garb–shorts and a hoodie, plus camera around the neck–nor made fun of my windblown messy hair; I’m like a dog who likes to stick his head out the car window and smile, but luckily my ears aren’t as long. For such a fancy place all the workers seemed to be pretty laid back, and seemed to genuinely enjoy working there, which in this rarefied type of eatery surprised me–absolutely no attitude from anyone–but pleasantly. And you can tell it’s a pretty ritzy place when a guy dressed as the chef–maybe the chef himself, but doubtful–comes out to deliver your plate instead of the waitress.
Okay, on to the food, which after all is the real reason for coming to a place like this, even if the service can affect how much you enjoy the meal. {Well, I suppose some people eat here to be seen, but to hell with them.} Another thing I’d heard about was that Kobe beef, a specialty Japanese meat where rumor has it the cows are fed beer, was the best tasting in the world, and I believe it. In fact, I ordered the burger without any condiments, just the meat, cheese, and bread–either a naked burger or wearing cheese lingerie, you choose–so I could really get the taste of the Japanese beef. Having never spent more than five dollars on a burger, I can honestly say this one was well worth the twelve dollar price tag. In combination with a Henry Weinhard’s orange creme soda, which Autumn suggested I try, and some really huge table fries, it was one of the best meals of my life! I ate around three o’clock, and didn’t need to eat again till the next morning! And I came back a few hours later to have another one of those orange tongue lovelies in the bar, though the Russian bartender didn’t put any orange sherbet in it like Autumn did.
{As usual, thinking about that meal makes me want a Henry Weinhard’s Orange Crème gourmet soda with orange sherbet right now! Which means I have to get over to the BevMore for a four pack, and they’re really expensive! At least it doesn’t put me in the mood for a Kobe burger, and ever since that day I’ve been thinking of Autumn the waitress anyway, so that’s nothing new.} And I have to say the best moment of the entire meal was when I was paying Autumn and I told her, “I wish the guys from the office were here, so they could see I don’t ask every beautiful woman I meet to pose for me. . .” I may have never gotten a photo, but that mix of surprise and delight on her face will never leave my memory. . .
Next time I’m gonna try the steak. . . and I hope Autumn is still working there. . . though that’s selfish of me; hopefully she’s moved on to bigger and better things.
After that amazing meal, I walked back to the bus tunnel, and while waiting for the green light, my always-investigating eyes looked downward and saw I was standing next to the name of the street, carved into the cement of the corner, in some fancy script. I’d never noticed that before, but could remember glancing across streets and seeing kids seemingly very interested in their footwear. It was an “A-ha!” moment. I crossed the street when the light prompted, of course noticing this corner also had the street name, though having to read it upside down. Either way, nice.
Bus tunnel and then monorail back to Seattle Center, passing by the Space Needle, where I noticed some marionettes dancing to “Ghost Riders in the Thighs. . . er, Sky.” Yeah, I definitely needed a rest, and for once I wasn’t at all tempted as I walked by McD’s. With the grapes and the Kobe burger, and the huge fries that came with it, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to eat again till I got back to El Lay!

;o)

Seattle, Husky Stadium, botanical gardens, reeds, U Dub, University of Washington

Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 3, Part 3

Back on the ground, thankfully, I crossed the street to wait for the bus, the surroundings making me feel like I was standing at the edge of some rural town, waiting to go to the next little village. Yet another place in Seattle with a small town feel. On the ride we passed many of my old haunts, like the Washington Park Arboretum, where I took my famous shot of Husky Stadium through the reeds, and the Museum of History and Industry, where I bought a four-way chess set that I think I’ve still never used. Still had plenty of time, so I stayed on the bus till I got to the Ave on the west side and then walked through campus, always a lovely stroll, though not as awesome as the leaf-turning walk during football, or in my case, volleyball and soccer season.

Seattle, Space Needle, lake

Seattle, lake, boat

Seattle, Husky Stadium, botanical gardens, reeds, U Dub, University of Washington

Seattle, mountain, fountain, U Dub, University of Washington

I started coming to Seattle as a kid, and the first time someone mentioned “U Dub” to me, I had no idea what they were talking about. I guess in context to the rest of the sentence it’s easy to see they were referring to the university, but I still wondered why it was called that, until it finally came to me that it must be short for UW–as in “U DoubleU.” Which officially makes everyone here lazier than me, if they can’t pronounce a full letter. Did you know “The Wave” was invented here at Husky Stadium? Almost as good as the tidbit about some local PR guy inventing the “happy face” icon in the 60s.
Finally I had only Montlake to cross, and there was that bridge where I’ve had many a conversation–not exactly the Ponte Vecchio or the Rialto, but fun anyways. Going between the football and basketball–or volleyball–stadiums, I was finally at Husky Softball Stadium, hungry and anticipating a good game.
Which I didn’t get. Not only was getting any food I liked an issue, not only did the Bruins stink up the entire state, but it was more than 80 degrees of hard sunshine and there I was in a heavy jacket, with a hoodie underneath! Had one bright spot where the UCLA team spotted my jacket and waved, but other than that. . .
I always thought UCLA’s softball stadium was beautifully located, surrounded by trees in the middle of El Lay, but U Dub’s has it beat for that amazing view of Lake Washington beyond left field. There aren’t many places where you can catch a game and watch the sailboats between innings.
I understand that most of you aren’t going to be baseball/softball fans, but this game was so putrid I just need to vent. Case in point: the opposing pitcher gives up FIVE walks in a row–the only two runs UCLA scored–and up comes the best hitter, who not only swings at the first pitch but strikes out on an offering outside IN THE DIRT.
There was only one other Bruin fan in the stands, and he was wearing the exact same jacket, which should be no surprise, considering it was given to me by the father of the shortstop, who has an incredibly extended family, and the other guy was one of her numerous cousins. But to their credit the U Dub fans were a happy bunch and didn’t seem to take things too seriously; I certainly didn’t have to dodge any beer bottles. . . this time.
On to my other complaint: the nachos are only served with spiced cheese! Or whatever that yellow cheese-like substance is called. It took a while for me to get over my incredulousness, even went back to my seat to eat my peanuts–gotta have peanuts at the softball game. Finally, hungry as I was, I went back and asked if I could have the nachos without any cheese, more than willing to pay full price. Perhaps they were so happy to finally get rid of me that they took off fifty cents anyway; people in the Pacific Northwest may be closet Canadians.

Seattle, UCLA Softball, softball, U Dub, University of Washington

Seattle, UCLA Softball, softball, U Dub, University of Washington

Seattle, softball, U Dub, University of Washington

Seattle, UCLA Softball, softball, U Dub, University of Washington

Not wanting to walk all the way back up to the Ave after the game, I asked around to see if anyone knew which bus that came along Montlake could get me back downtown. No one seemed to know, so I walked south, hoping the bus signs would help me, lugging all my camera gear as well as the heavy jacket I couldn’t put up with anymore.
At this point I ran into a beautiful green-eyed blonde dwarf, whom of course I asked for directions. She was very nice, and extremely happy, perhaps that someone was talking to her and treating her like an equal, just another person. Unfortunately she couldn’t help me out either, but as you can see, I shall never forget her. . .
Once I got to the southeastern edge of campus, and there’s that fountain I shot so famously above, I decided to screw it and limped my way up the Burke-Gilman trail, converted from an abandoned railway. At least this was a gradual uphill, but I’ve been on it many times I didn’t expect to see any sights, especially without the aforementioned fall foliage.
And then I came across one of the world’s rarest and most elusive natural wonders: a beautiful redhead in a Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform! Excuse me, I have a sudden need to lie down and “remember” that vision again. . .
Okay, I’m back. And no, it wasn’t what you think. . .
Ended up climbing on the same bus I came on–same driver–except now it was rush hour, so I had plenty of time to take in my surroundings and recharge from all the walking. Landed downtown with still about a half hour to spare before my business meeting/dinner, which was far too boring to discuss here.
After that, still in explorer mode, I went down to the waterfront, wandering without destination or purpose, not expecting to find anything new from my previous jaunts through this area. I certainly wasn’t in any mood to see any more animals in the Aquarium, not after yesterday. As it turned out, apart from the cooling breeze, remembering previous jaunts was the best part of the walk, most of them involving a 6’2 babe who shall remain nameless {poor girl, going through life without a name. . . or at least not a pronounceable one, but again, that’s another story}. We walked along these same docks, then rode the merry-go-round, where her legs still reached the floor even when seated on that lucky wooden horsie. Then we ate some ice cream in forty degree weather, watched Mt. St. Helens explode in the Omnidome {since closed}, and played air hockey until we got kicked out for not letting others play. After that incredibly tiring exercise–I could barely lift my arms–we relaxed by taking the harbor cruise, sitting in the biting wind and snuggling while regaling each other with stories of air hockey games past. Doing more walking later, I asked her for a rest, and she laughed, “I don’t need to rest.” to which I of course replied, “Well, I do. Stop being so selfish.” She gasped and left, and I never saw her again. . .
There’s something about Seattle that always surprises visitors: it’s as filled with hills as San Francisco, and that’s after some leveling. Walking down to the bay it doesn’t enter your mind, but coming back up you realize just how steep these hills are. And just as you get to the top of one, you find yourself at the bottom of another.
Back to hotel to vegetate. . . I mean, cogitate on next morning’s meeting, and found my hotel room door apparently closed, but not locked! Careless maids are one thing, but this still shocks me to this day. . .

;o)

Seattle, from the air, boats, marina

Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 3, Part 2

SEATTLE SEAPLANES, the giant sign said, and what else do you need to know? My sign would have read: Fly at the risk of your own sanity. Anyhoo, I walked into the office, which was on a floating dock that didn’t handle waves very well, and told the lady I had called earlier. She said no pilots were around yet, although one was on his way, if I wanted to wait. The huge dog yawning at her feet made me wonder, but around that time said pilot walked in and, after being informed of the situation, cheerfully said he would take me up for the tour, after the standard pre-check.
While he was doing that I looked at all the photos and such in the waiting room, especially the poster from the 1930s with the {deep authoritative voice with reverb} “Rules of Flying.”
Rule #12: If you see another plane near you, get out of the way.
WHY THE HELL ISN’T THAT #1?
The pilot agreed with a chuckle as he came to gather me and my cameras, and then we were in the plane and taxiing into Lake Union.
The previous day I’d been to the observation deck at Smith Tower, and I’d gone up the Space Needle before, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m scared to death of heights, as I said on the overpass. Oddly enough, I’m not bothered by flying in a jet, but on the other hand I can look away from the tiny window and not think about it. Not so on this thing, where most of the front half is window. Luckily I was seated, because I had a full-blown case of jelly-leg syndrome. My stomach was fluttering big time, but of course I couldn’t betray my calm and collected exterior, even to someone I was never going to see again. Eventually I managed to concentrate on taking photos and forgot everything else. . . for the most part. Kinda hard not to be reminded when you’re constantly looking out the windows. . . that’s a long way down. . .
The pilot had the route down after no doubt hundreds of flights, but he kindly told me to let him know if there was anything I wanted to see either closer or again. Since the takeoff was north, we flew straight over Gasworks Park, but unfortunately there was still a big of mist/haze from the morning’s weather, so it was hard to see. I had better luck when we turned east and overpassed U Dub; this was particularly fun for me because I’d done the same thing over UCLA, yet tried not to compare my two favorite schools. The floating bridge was a quick flyby, but it proved to look quite interesting from this perspective.


On the far side of the bridge you get to a real doozy, Bill Gates’ estate. Not only is this thing huge, sitting on the water across Lake Washington in Bellevue, but the pilot plays guide and you hear through the headphones about all the security devices and computer controls the mansion has. I can say with ease this was the most interesting part of the flight.


From there it was a big loop across the southern part of downtown, checking out some interesting buildings, before going over the water and finally turning back at Discovery Park and the Ballard Locks. Unfortunately the mist hadn’t cleared out of this area yet, and there was a bit of glare off the water, but I persevered, managing to get some interesting shots of both places, as well as the shoreline and the estates lining it.

There’s the corn cobs again!



Zoomed by the zoo too quickly to get any good photos, but then we made a loop around the Space Needle, so close I could see the people up on the observation deck without the telephoto. No doubt they were gawking at me too–we were really close. And from the air, the silly rock museum looks like the anorexic Space Needle vomited.

The Leaning Tower of Seattle


Best of all, once we landed and taxied in, the pilot said he couldn’t tell how nervous–scared shitless–I was. Yay!

;o)

Seattle, from the water, downtown, Smith Tower, downtown Seattle

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

Done with wandering, thinking up a plan, I found myself near the University Street entrance to the bus tunnel, where I came across a board of flashing lights eerily similar to the one in Union Station that was shut down because it caused an epileptic seizure {and has since been started again, huh}. A short trip, only a few stops, took me to Smith Tower, which to my surprise I realized I’d never been to.
Can’t believe more people don’t know about this! Most travelers to Seattle go up to the Space Needle to check the view, and never realize the city has an older, more original observation deck. Smith Tower is an almost-century-old and amazingly beautiful skyscraper which when built had been amongst the tallest in the US, if not the world. Now it’s dwarfed by its downtown neighbors to the north, but out here by Pioneer Square it sits alone and majestic, with only the Piazza San Marco Campanile facsimile at the train station keeping it company amongst the clouds.

All by its lonely on the right


Despite being afraid of heights, I couldn’t resist going up for some shots. It’s a completely different feeling than the Space Noodle (Yes, I changed that, I’m funny that way). For one thing, the design of the elevators–each car has a driver!–lets you see the people in the hallways as you zoom past them, which is fun in a voyeuristic kinda way. I was the only person in the elevator, apart from the operator, of course, who started the history lesson, and he didn’t sound bored doing it, either. He told me these elevators were the last manually operated ones on the West Coast, which is kinda fun to know. Some of us are so lazy we can’t be bothered to push a button.
Since a tourist has no need going to any of the business offices, the elevator zooms right up to the thirty-fifth floor, where you come out in a relatively small but very fancy room with a tiny gift shop and plenty of exhibits, but more importantly a wrap-around view of Seattle in its entirely. Suddenly you feel like you’re smack in the middle of Seattle’s skyline, even though you’re actually on one end of it. But that’s okay, because even if you’re not into looking at all the other sky-highs, you can see between them right to the Space Needle, the closest view you’ll get to its disk without being in a plane or chopper. To the east you get a fantastic view of Mount Rainier, while to the west is the Olympic Peninsula and its mountains, islands, and Puget Sound, not to mention the waterfront and the ferry terminal at your feet. And to the south, right below you, is Pioneer Square; if you see a long line of walkers, that’s probably the Underground Tour heading for the stairs. A little further up is the train station and aforementioned Campanile, and if you’re really into cheap seats you could probably watch the football game at Qwest from here. Safeco Field is right there too, but its architecture doesn’t allow for a good look at the playing area, oh well.
Above the windows is a running poster that goes all the way around and identifies all the prominent landmarks. Having been to Seattle many times, I still had never seen what looks to be a red fortress off to the southeast, maybe around the airport. I asked the guy on duty what the hell it was, and he chuckled like he got it all the time, which he no doubt did, and explained that it used to be the Pacific Medical Center–imagine Grey’s Anatomy set there–until it was bought by. . . Amazon!
And then you notice the door that lets you go outside onto a narrow walkway around the tower, and despite the fact the wire mesh cages you in and keeps you from walking on air, it is small consolation to the animal brain that screams, “If Nature had wanted humans to fly, she would have given us tickets!” Still, it’s a lot better taking photos from here than from inside, if you can stand it. I barely could.


Finally back inside, I wandered the exhibits, which if you see them will explain why it’s called the Chinese Room in there. The plaque and/or the guide will tell you the dark carved furniture were gifts to Mr. Smith–who made him money in guns and bullets. . . making them, not committing robberies–from the Empress of China. The very biggest deal of these furnishings is the wishing chair, which has carvings of a dragon and phoenix, which when combined is supposed to signify marriage in the Chinese mythological lexicon. So someone came up with the idea/legend that any woman who wants to get married will do so within a year of sitting in the chair, and uses Mr. Smith’s daughter as an example that the good luck works. Well, I sat in it and I’m still floundering in the sea of love, so if it indeed works, don’t bother, guys. It’s strictly for the estrogen-powered.
Damned sexist chair. . .
After that, wasted some time in the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Ever since the demise of Killing Time–what a fantastic name for a mystery bookstore!–in the University District, this is Seattle’s best mystery bookstore. Seattle seems to have a disproportionate amount of mystery novels written about it. I mean, how often do you read a book set in Atlanta, or Houston, or even Chicago? {That was rhetorical, no need to list them!} Emerson, Jance, Peirson, and even a few good one-offs.
Close by was a sporting goods store, whose name I can never remember but I visit every time in town, the only place I buy Seahawks gear; I remember one time talking to a large black lady about Brian Bosworth, or Not Worth, as I called him, in the checkout line, but why dredge up bad memories? This time they were selling UCLA stuff! Which reminded me of the time at the U bookstore with that checkout gal, where I asked her if I was safe wearing UCLA gear around town. She said as long as it wasn’t Wazzou. . . or Oregon, which led me to ask the store guy, who told me this story: In 1948, Oregon and Cal tied for the Pacific Coast Conference football championship. When the member schools held a vote to determine which school would represent the conference in the Rose Bowl, Washington voted for Cal and encouraged Montana to do the same, keeping Oregon at home and kicking off the loathing. Considering Washington was successful for decades and Oregon was a perennial loser till recent years, I think the hatred must have been pretty one-sided on the ducky side, but I guess if someone hates you, you tend to hate them back.
Couldn’t find a shoe buffer! My poor boots. . .
Had bought my ticket for the underground tour earlier, but had to wait a few hours till my appointed time, hence the trip to the bookstore and sporting goods and stuff. Got an ice cream at the pizza-by-the-slice place, ate it while watching the tourists and trying to guess their hometowns and countries as they passed by, and finally went inside and had a soft drink while waiting some more, though I knew how it filled up and left some standing, which is why I went in early as I could. Sitting next to me was a hung-over-looking chick–it was three in the afternoon–who begged me to tell her a joke involving sperm; trust me, I could not make this shit up. Luckily I knew one, and now you will know one too. . .
Guy comes into the sperm bank wearing a mask and holding a gun. He goes right up to the nurse at the front desk and demands that she drink that sperm sample on the desk. She refuses, and he pulls the gun up threateningly. . .
So she drinks it.
The guy takes off the mask; it’s her husband, who says, “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
Which sets the tone rather nicely for the underground tour, don’t ya think? You would if you’ve ever been on it and remember their corny, though cute, commentary.
Hint: if you’re from California, do NOT raise your hand when the MC asks, “Is there anyone here from California?” We get more flak than even Texans! He also said that some people got married down there! But because of the generally dingy condition, you shouldn’t wear a big frilly white dress, let alone heels. At that point there was a cry of dismay from the back; she never stood up, but considering the woman who squealed had painted blonde hair and tons of makeup, I’m guessing she wasn’t looking as forward to the tour as she had been a minute before.
You can’t spend any time in Seattle without soon enough hearing the story about how the town burnt down in the late 1880s, then was rebuilt on top of the ruins. Or, as the introducer to the tour says, “The ruins of Seattle are not as old or famous as those of Pompeii, but they’re the only ones we have. A further advantage is that they are right here in town and not across the ocean someplace. The Pompeiians couldn’t have buried their city without a considerable contribution from Mt. Vesuvius. Seattle’s was a do-it-yourself project. . . though Mt. Reiner is close at hand in case we failed to do it correctly the first time.”
As you might expect, large portions of the underground were still inhabitable, and used for all the stuff you couldn’t do legally aboveground, but even that eventually petered out and the whole level was forgotten, until Bill Speidel found it and thought it would be fun to give tours, which are so famous and popular now you need to buy a ticket a few hours in advance to reserve your spot.
Eventually we were introduced to our guide, who turned out to be a funny redhead with incredible blue eyes, dressed in overalls, such a fantastic contrast to the squealing woman just mentioned. She led us outside and around the corner, where our first stop was a triangular parking garage. As we stood there, annoying pedestrians, she explained the history of the area, how it had been slated to be torn down, how it was saved, and how things stood at present. Then she pointed out a fake owl on the upper floors of some of the surrounding buildings, apparently placed there to keep pigeons away, but according to all the white stains wasn’t working so well.
With that part done, she led us across the street to a nondescript door between buildings, where everyone filed down some wooden staircases that reminded me of the line at Disneyland for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Finally we were all gathered in what might have been the lobby of a small hotel over a hundred years ago, with a bar/counter and other remains all around. It was about twenty degrees cooler down there as she continued the lecture, peppering it with plenty of corny jokes—think Jungle Cruise at Disneyland—and stories about the founder of the tour, as well as the politicians of the time. My favorite: “He’d steal tobacco from your mouth if you yawned.”
From there we traveled through tunnels that looked like mine shafts, stopping at various places to gawk at the history left behind and hear more stories. I know I’m not making it sound very interesting, but it truly is, as well as a lot of fun, though maybe a bit tiring if you’re not used to all the strolling and standing.
There was one part that really stood out in my mind: if you walk on the sidewalks topside, you might notice there’s some bubbles of colored glass here and there; she pointed them out before we went downstairs. Well, now we were looking at them in the opposite direction, and she told everyone to yell when they saw someone walk by. So it was really hilarious when one guy did indeed stop and look around to see who was yelling at him.
The end of the tour comes out back in their building, at the gift shop of course. There are plenty of interesting books on the history of Seattle, as well as a few hilarious tomes written by the man Mr. Speigel himself; be sure to use the code word for the discount. And of course you can get key chains and postcards and such, and, believe it or not, Gummy cats. Not as good as Gummy Babes, but interesting enough.
And in case you get to the end of the tour and the guide hasn’t mentioned it, ask about the problem of elevation and the backflow from the toilets in the early days, which leads to a particularly bawdy joke dealing with the “frenemy” relationship between Seattle and its neighbor Tacoma. . .
It was interesting for me to realize–well after the fact–that I had a headache before and after the tour, but not during. . .
Now thoroughly tired, I hiked back to the bus tunnel for another short ride back to Westlake Center, delighted to realize I knew my way through the tunnels and had no trouble remembering exactly where I wanted to go. After the escalator to the Mezzanine Level, I decided that. . . THAT alcove was the one that led to the almost-hidden straight-shot elevator to the monorail platform. Of course there were signs pointing to it, but they only confirmed what I already knew, I swear.
And as the elevator doors opened, I caught a glimpse of the monorail pulling away. Well, there’d be another one in ten minutes, so I went inside the mall, remembering I hadn’t gone through my usual ritual in this place: buying gummy bears. That had to be remedied stat.
Westlake Center, despite being about four floors and airy, is really your typical overpriced mall, the only saving grace being the monorail stop, so I’m not going to bother reviewing this. I did have a chuckle as I passed a display of shades, because I had just read somewhere that people in Seattle bought more sunglasses per capita than any other city in the States, which seems ridiculous at first glance, but now I saw there might be something to it: you buy a pair on a sunny day, and the next sunny day is so far away that you forgot where you put them and have to buy another pair at lunchtime, and so on. Considering the glare off the bay, I could definitely see the necessity, though I doubt many had forgotten lately, since there’s been nothing but sun since I’d gotten here. A friend back in El Lay told me it was raining, which figured, considering how much I love rain and am hardly ever home for it.
As usual there was hardly any line to pay and walk into the waiting area or, as was the case now, right into the waiting monorail. On the trip you pass by these two hotels/condos that look like corn on the cob, except the corn’s been eaten and you’re just left with the ugly-colored cob. What made this funny was that there’s a duplicate hotel next to the Long Beach airport, as well as one pretty damned close to UCLA, and they all look like used corn. I’m sure I’ve got a photo of them somewhere. . .

Corncobs at middle-back

Once arriving, I noticed that, from the monorail platform, Seattle Center looked like the Prater–Vienna, Riesenrad, anybody?–with the little rollercoasters and rows of win-something booths and such.
Quick stop in at the business place to see if there were any new developments before tomorrow’s meeting, or if anyone was so blown away they wanted to see my photos again. Instead I got the secretary eyeing me and claiming, “You look like you slept in your clothes.”
“I napped in them, so technically it’s true.” Hey, I don’t get paid for my looks.
She went on and on about some kind of standard set in this place, which first of all I didn’t care about, since I would never be working here, and second of all, seemed incongruously out of place from someone so low on the totem pole. . . hey, I had to get a totem pole reference in while in Seattle, right? Finally I told her, “Excuse me for speaking–or dressing–my mind instead of following you off the cliff like a lemur. . . er, lemming!”
See, that trip to the zoo HAD been worth it!
More importantly, she flushed and shut up.
After another quick stop at McD’s, mostly out of fatigue than dining preference, it was back to the hotel to rest up and ice my feet, so they wouldn’t swell up and be unavailable for tonight’s fun. I really can’t tell ya what happened for the next two hours, not because I don’t want to but because I don’t remember it. I was pretty out of it.
This time bothering to have an actual sit-down meal, good but not worth writing about, I headed over to Belltown, remembering a previous visit when the whoosh of the monorail in the rain. . . no rain so far, dammit!
Anyway, I’ve been coming to Seattle enough years to see what a change has taken place in Belltown. From slums to a Patagonia store–that’s when a neighborhood knows they’ve made it. Kudos to the people who bought up the buildings before the renaissance.
Too early for the concert when I first got to the place, so I wandered around and found a FedEx, where I went in to get on the internet to catch up on e-mails and such, and to check the band’s myspace to make sure they hadn’t canceled or anything.
Okay, let’s be honest–the concert wasn’t good enough to be blogged about. On to the next day. . .

;o)

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

So here was the test: I was exhausted last night, as expected after that long climb and longer walk downhill, but the reason for all that exercise in the past couple of weeks was so I would wake up without feeling tired, and it worked! Ready to face the day!
Only to see the forecast calls for 70s. . . dammit! Rainy City my succulent rear end!
Mostly meetings in the morning, as well as that alliteration I’m so fond of. After that, it was back to the hotel to drop off all the photos and stuff, pick up the cameras, and move a few blocks east to catch another bus.
Except I can’t cross Aurora! It turned out to be a minor-league highway, and I had to go well out of my way–at least a dozen blocks–to get across it. Shit, never heard of pedestrian bridges, people? Though I did see a beautiful jogger that had me vowing to come back the next morning, maybe a replay of what happened in Salzburg with Suzette. . . {hope you weren’t anticipating that part of the story, because the next morning, and the following ones, I totally forgot. . .} Ended up in a very strangely shaped intersection with a couple of islands in the middle. . . just weird, you have to see it to believe it. Took me a while of muttering to find the bus stop, then make sure I was pointed in the right direction. But once I was in position the bus came quickly and we were off on another long jaunt. I’d noticed it before, but this brought it home really hard that Seattle is a very large city, from north to south, or vice versa, in this case. Due to the water on the west and east, there isn’t much room that way, but it had El Lay-type length from the airport to the zoo, and the zoo ain’t the furthest north you can go.
I love reading detective stories set in Seattle–which is why I know all the mystery bookstores–but I guess some are out-of-date. I believe it was Earl Emerson, though it could have been J.A. Jance, who wrote that cheap hotels with hookers offering their wares on the hoof abound along Aurora Blvd., but all I saw were condos and “retirement villas.” Well, maybe at night; every town’s gotta have a red light district, after all. We zoomed through Greenwood and got into Wallingford, another nice neighborhood similar to Queen Anne, though not quite as high-brow. It had even more of a small-town feel, almost like a small mountain town, though not as many trees as Big Bear or Whistler. Nice.
A young lady called for the bus stop one block before the zoo, and if she hadn’t, we would have gotten to the ticket booth before this huge crowd that beat us by about five steps. Luckily I happened to notice a sign–not homemade, printed up real–by the side of the booths that screamed: “Yes, there is another window open. Honest! Over here!”
I love this town.
The official name is Woodland Park Zoological Gardens, which is a bit hoighty-toity for me, but at least you can tell they’re internet-savvy, to be the first to grab that url: http://www.zoo.org/
Put simply, the elephants are the stars here. It’s very hard to find a zoo where all the animals are treated the same, as in all of them having equally great places to live. At this zoo, with its overly pretentious official name, you can tell it’s the elephants they care about the most. There’s a HUGE enclosure with a stream running through it, with elevated viewing points for the public. There’s even a full-depth swimming pool, pretty much making this a pachyderm spa! Unfortunately I didn’t see any elephants in this beautiful landscaped area, because they were all in the barn, which is also huge and looks like something you might spot in the Thai forest. The good news was you could look through the open doors and see the elephants being bathed about five feet away, close enough that the bug guy coulda stuck out his trunk to shake if he wanted to. There was one lady there to answer all the kids’ questions, while a guy took care of all the adult queries, and it was fun watching the elephant lift his foot so the big paw would be cleaned as well. According to the displays the floor was rubberized, to protect the elephants’ feet and knee joints, and the radiant heat produced so cheaply is what allowed the doors to remain open, even though this was a warm day and there was no worries about catching a pachyderm cold.
There’s a funny story on one of the plaques about how in 1921 one of the local newspapers did a fundraiser for money to buy an elephant. Kids donated over $3000 dollars, mostly in pennies, and the newspaper put up the rest. What they don’t tell you–it’s called research, people–is that the newspaper had already bought the elephant for the zoo and had to find a way to offset some of the cost while generating a bunch of publicity. That elephant lived into its fifties, but don’t ask me why it was named Wide Awake. At first they used to give rides on the non-sleepy one for ten cents, but Dumbo must’ve gotten bored and took off, though they don’t say if it happened while anyone was aboard. You figure after that they kept him locked up.
Moving on, my next stop was the Rain Forest, which is an enclosed giant cage for the birds, literally, and lets you stroll through a boardwalk full of huge ferns and such, which makes it kinda hard to see the birds unless they’re flying. Very humid, too. Did you know toucans are tiny? {I later saw them close up at Iguazu Falls, but this was my first view not on a cereal box.} The one thing I mostly remember was some crazy squawking avian doing laps near the top of the cage. He was tough to follow, going at full speed until he finally settled down or just got tired. If he hadn’t been flying perfect loops, and never crashing into the mesh, I woulda recommended a visit to the animal psych. And as I read the sign that claimed the animals were “sensitive to noise” so keep it down, a jet flew overhead.
The most fascinating part of this zoo for me was the Nocturnal House; since my favorite in the world is the Singapore Night Zoo, maybe I’m predisposed that way. Speaking of laps and animal mental health, there was one tiny porcupine pretty much behaving like the bird, doing laps around and under a hollowed log right at the front of the glassed exhibit. I couldn’t take my eyes off him; whenever he made a wrong turn, like going under the middle of the log before finishing off the lap, he would screech to a stop, turn around, go back to some imaginary starting point, and start over. I wonder if human diseases and disabilities–not the physical ones, I mean mental or psychological–can happen to animals too, because this little guy had some OCD in him! And don’t get me started on the beautiful blonde inside the enclosure feeding the bats! Yeeech! “No honey, I really don’t want to see what you do at work. . .”
Most nocturnal animals, according to the displays, have a layer of tissue behind the retinas that reflects light, therefore increasing sensitivity–and explaining why they don’t like to come out in the day, must be blinding. Though due to that, most are colorblind. . . I don’t think I’ve ever pondered the question of animals seeing colors before. Even a bull reacts to the waving of. . . whatever it is you’re waving at it, and doesn’t care if it’s red or not. There was also a display on fish who lived in a cave in Mexico and, through evolution, the species had become blind! I guess they depend on their hearing, and I don’t know about smells underwater, but there’s something weird about having to touch and taste everything to see if it’s edible. Which reminds me of the koala in some farm in Oz-land that, every time he came to a curb, he had to taste it, in case it had changed since the last time. I imagine the animal dentist had a weekly consultation.
Checking the little map I was given coming in, I saw that a bird show was starting soon, and since I was nearby and wanted a rest, I headed off over there. Unfortunately there were no stands like the show at the El Lay zoo, just bleachers, which kill my back, so I stood talking to a woman standing there waiting to be talked to, if the falcon on her arm was any indication; yes, she did have a bird in the hand, go ahead and say it. It was kinda eerie, the way its beady eyes looked at me, and seemed to sneer when I ran out of questions. I didn’t stay for the whole show, though watching the birds swooping down to grab the lure is always fun.
At the far reaches of the zoo there’s the Northern Trail, which is supposed to mimic a walk through Denali National Park, so says the signs. While I did see a bear and some bald eagles, I was pretty disappointed with this part. Sometimes the displays and habitats are too natural, ergo boring to the human tourist.

Who doesn’t love polar bears? Don’t answer that, I don’t want to know. The kids especially loved it when the big guys were given a large chunk of ice to play with, and inside it was what appeared to be an apple for the bear to work for. Of course the kids gave a rousing cheer when the bear finally got to it, and you could swear the big ol’ white guy was grinning.
There’s a huge gorilla enclosure, which the display claims is the largest of its kind in the world, but most people don’t bother checking out most of it, because it has a glass wall where you can gawk at the gorillas, and more importantly vice versa. I saw one particularly large specimen sitting on his haunches right at the left side, waiting for humans to walk by so he could study them, looking for a chance to lock eyes. I tell ya, it was spooky. . .


Some other random tidbits:
There was a big display about shade-grown coffee. I don’t drink the java, so I don’t know much about that, but apparently there’s an ecological component to the argument.
There’s a food court, but it’s pretty weak. I will tell you that the girl at one of the snack bars had very little imagination:
“What do you have in the way of ice cream?”
“Um. . . it’s bad for you?”
“Great. I have enough mothers.”
“How many?”
I almost said zero, but that was wishful thinking. Maybe she was BFFs with the one in the Space Needle.
As soon as you come in the gate and past the food area, there’s a huge grassy empty space. Don’t know if they let ya picnic there, but bring your football or Frisbee–just don’t tell ‘em I told ya.
Tree kangaroos? In Papua New Guinea. Nothing else I can say about that, but you gotta see it to believe it.
One of the kids scurrying around me was named Nickleby! I don’t even care if his father’s a Melville scholar, he deserves some lashes! {the parent, not the kid. . .}
Louisiana Pine snake! Yikes!
The King Cobra’s fancy name is Ophiophagus Hannah! When I got back to LA I told this tidbit to the Hannah I know, and to my disappointment she looked proud. I also found out later, at the Crocodile Club, that there’s a music venue called King Cobra, up on Pill Hill, which made me wonder what other booze places in town are named after animals.
I think this is the only place where I’ve seen the endangered snow leopard; I certainly didn’t see them during my trip to Kyrgyzstan.


The Malayan tapir is a huge weird thing. It may have the same coloring as a panda, but believe me, that’s where the resemblance ends. Again, you gotta see it. . .
Did you know “Orangutan” means “person of the forest?” Sounds Dutch, but apparently it’s a word in one of the myriad of Malaysian or Indonesian languages.
Sloth bear! He must be giving kudos to whoever named him. It was fun to see the cubs riding piggyback! Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve ever seen piglets ridding piggyback. . .
Nothing more natural than a little girl skipping. She had curly blonde hair, which I think accounted for her mom calling her “Noodle. . .”
After a couple of hours of almost non-stop walking–ever noticed you can get tired walking in an art museum too?–I managed to hop back on a bus quickly, and the ride was long enough for me to recuperate. Seeing no need to go back to the hotel yet, I stayed on the bus until it got to downtown and turned east. Not wanting to end up in the boonies–at least not yet–I got off accidentally at one of the places I wanted to check out, Freeway Park. Unfortunately this turned out to be just a park over the freeway and no bigger deal than that, and since I hadn’t eaten at the zoo, I salivated when I came across a huge sign for baked potatoes in a nearby business edifice. I clomped up the stairs and entered what turned out to be a thin L-shaped deli-like eating establishment, with some tables along the walls and the place where you order on the inside, and not a lot of room in the middle. I promptly sat down, only to realize I had to get in line to order. Doh!
I seemed to be the only customer at the moment, but the lunch hours had just finished and, from what I saw while I ate there, most people came in and took their food to go. Not even bothering to glance at the menu, I of course ordered the baked potato, though I ignored all the toppings in their little trays before me and asked for it “plain.”
It was interesting to watch the staff: it was owned and operated by an Asian family, with the beautiful perky girl taking the orders, mom cooking, and dad cleaning up the tables and floor. He was very friendly, smiling and saying hello to everyone who came in; the whole atmosphere of the place put me in a good mood right away.
As I said, I ordered my baked potato plain, and yet it still came with green and red stuff on it. The girl made a funny face when I brought it back, and she instantly threw the good-for-someone-else potato in the trash and called for her mom, who finally got the idea that I really only wanted sour cream and butter on my spud; maybe something was lost in the translation. Because of that–hey, I was really hungry and not in the mood to wait!–I give them a four out of five, though the large potato was excellent and the staff really friendly. Of course the place serves other food as well, plenty of different types of sandwiches and a bunch of side dishes, as well as more regular fare like bags of potato chips and such. There’s also a good variety of drinks in the glass-door fridge you see when coming in, not nearly as expensive as most places, and there’s a great view of the street from the tables up against the glass wall that held the banner, if you’re a people watcher. For the non-rainy days, there’s an outdoor patio as well.
I’ll finish by saying it’s definitely worth a visit, and I plan to go there again. After all, you can’t eat at the Metropolitan Grill every meal. . .
Refueled and ready for more touristy action, I sauntered along parts of downtown I didn’t know very well, coming across the new library and the pedestal-type building, neither of which I went into, simply shot them from a safe distance. No doubt walking inside that library is vertigo-inducing. It was tough enough trying to find an angle on the sidewalk to take a picture without going into the street–have I told you about Seattle drivers?


Passed a church that, on their marquee, said, “Jazz worship.” I know some people love jazz, but this is ridiculous! And there’s a Felonious Monk joke in there. . . {Yes, I know that’s not his name, it’s a joke in itself!} And yes, I’m sure it’s a regular worship thing set to jazz music, but I find that when I don’t care that much, I go for the funny. It’s barely Tuesday, you gotta learn to play along. . .

More next week—it was a really long day. . .

;o)