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!


Travel Thursday: Victorian Canada, part 3

Back at the hotel the next morning, she woke up to see me juggling oranges, which no doubt made her wonder if she was still asleep. It didn’t last long, as my arms got tired and I kept hearing that annoying circus music in my head. Besides, it was more fun watching her yawn and reach for her hair. “The Magic Braid,” I sighed happily as she began getting her do ready for the long day. Waiting for her to finish with that, my next step was to toss her the sunblock. “Butter up, Whitey.”
Smiling, she did so, for once not annoyed as I took some photos of her creaming herself, so to speak.
After breakfast I immediately took her to another place I knew she would like.
“This is the museum, right?”
“Yep. See that statue? I impressed my high school teachers big-time by mentioning it was a perfect example of gestalt.”
Looking at the semi-abstract carving of what she figured was a man, a woman, and a child, she noticed how their arms were not just intertwined, but actually connected to each other, making for one flowing statue. “The whole greater than the sum of its parts? Hope your psych professor was one of them.”
“He was indeed, but it embarrassed him.”
“Because he’d just told everyone else how badly I was doing in his class.”
“You? Psych?”
“AP psych.”
The Royal British Columbia Museum, or some similar grandiose-sounding name, was a world-class, world-famous institute across a side street from the Empress Hotel, and across another side street from the big government building that looked like a parliament in Europe or something. But not even the stern visage of the Queen Victoria statue could detract from the modern lines of the museum. Unlike its equally famous cousin at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, these guys weren’t just into the anthropology, but more the history of the area, though of course when you went as far back as the Native Americans, or “First People,” as they were called in Canada, the two disciplines had a way of intermeshing.
As always wanting to be different, she hit the gift shop first, claiming she liked to see the postcards, so she wouldn’t miss anything she liked. I didn’t buy it for one second, especially when she bought a rather large pair of dice that instead of numbers had the possibilities as: love, sex, pub, TV, read, disco.
“Disco girl,” I muttered.
She merely smiled, and certainly didn’t complain.
Though she was surprised when, after an hour, I claimed this was a quick survey of the highlights, since we didn’t have all day. “So I can’t go back for another lobster?”
“Not today, but I’m sure you’ll be back here.”
“We’ll be back here.” She thrust out her chin for emphasis as she softly threatened me.
“Wherever you go, Iago,” I agreed.
She brightened, as she usually did when Shakespeare was in da house.
Leading her back outside, I was not surprised when she quickly proclaimed her fave exhibit had been the HMS Discovery mockup, at least till she got to Thunderbird Park. Having seen the totem poles in Pioneer Square in Seattle, she found these even more impressive, as well as fun.
After posing for the requisite photo beside the totem pole, and claiming she didn’t like being made to feel short, she walked back over to me, moving like model on a runway, then grimacing when I kept shooting.
“Okay, back to the hotel,” I pronounced. “Next stop. . . well, after Seattle, Goa!”
Squealing, she jumped me from behind and planted a big buss on my right cheek, then pretended I was kidding when I shrieked in back pain. . .
“When we come back here, can we also go to Vancouver?” she tried to change the subject after carrying my bag onto the boat.
Since the pain had mostly gone, I figured I’d save my revenge for later. “Sure.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Most beautiful city in the world. Maybe if you go with me I’ll finally finish circumnavigating Stanley Park.”
“That almost sounds like fun.” But her frowny grimace belied that. “Big city?”
“Pretty huge. Airport in Richmond in the south, the local Beverly Hills or Malibu all the way north up the coast, plenty of stuff to the east. . .”
“How come you know it so well?”
“Usta spent my summers there as a kid.”
“And do they know you there as well as they seem to in Victoria?”
“You mean blondes at McDonald’s?”
“No!” She breathed through her teeth for a few seconds as she got her annoyance back under control. “My temper might keep me from being an honorary Canadian.”
“Ha! That’s like getting your degree in one semester!”
Wince, but not long enough for me to get a photo of it, for as the boat slipped out of its berth and headed west to get out of the harbor, she shut her eyes in terror as a float plane came in for a landing in front of us. I stayed quiet, not knowing why she was acting this way; planes landed on water all the time, after all.
“Is he okay?”
“Who okay?”
“Pilot okay? Plane okay?”
“He okay.”
“Okay.” Opening her eyes, she nonetheless checked for herself. Though the plane had long since coasted to its dock, she was satisfied with seeing no wreckage, then instantly yelped, “Hey! You never told me the ending to your Blarney Stone story!”
“Why said who to what now?”
“Nice! But remember one of the first times we met, I told you I’d just been to Ireland, and you were telling me the story of your visit to the Blarney Stone when we were interrupted.”
“By an autograph seeker, as I recall.”
“By a little girl who had the same name as me, remember that?”
“Yeah, too bad she didn’t look anything like you.”
“That may work out well for her, but finish the story!”
“I don’t remember where I left off.”
“You told me about the blonde babe tour guide being hit on by the American jerk, and how she told him to fuck off.”
“She never used those words, she’s a nice lady, unlike–”
“So what happened then?”
“Hmph. It was raining too hard for us to go up to the stone, so he told her ‘If I kiss you, it’ll be like I got to kiss the stone.’”
She looked surprised. “Quite smooth, considering the way you drew his character.”
“Just wait, Yvonne will become your hero when you find out what she said.”
“Tell me!”
“I will when I’m sure there won’t be any interruptions.”
She almost promised not to, until she realized keeping quiet was better.
And indeed it worked. “She told him, ‘Well, I’ve never actually kissed the Blarney Stone, but I have sat on it.’”
“Kiss my ass!” she whooped, then looked around in embarrassment as she realized just how loudly she’d said that. “Let’s get our own asses topside, now that this thing is finally in motion.”
On the stairs I told her, “So that night at the hotel, I ran into Yvonne in the hallway as we went down to dinner–”
“Wait! There’s more to the story?”
“Sigh. So much for not interrupting.”
Wincing, she thought about running up the stairs, but knew she wanted to hear the rest of the tale. Trying to actually look sincere with this smile, she purred, “Sorry, darling,” only to roll her eyes when I laughed.
“I told her what a great line that had been, she said thanks, we had dinner together, ended up back in her room–”
Now out in the heavy wind, she felt okay with howling, “Too much information!”
“And yet another interruption. A stupid one at that, since you’re always asking about all the girls I slept with.”
The hand went to her forehead–with quite a bit of force–before she could stop it. “Could this day get any worse?” she asked a passing island, then decided it could and went with her contrite look, which she actually didn’t have a lot of practice with. “So what happened after you fucked her?”
“The guy had been badmouthing her all through dinner, claiming she must be a lesbian for not wanting to be with him.” I waited to see what she’d say to that, but this time she somehow managed to keep quiet, to her own amusement. “Finally I told him, ‘That doesn’t prove she’s a lesbian, it proves she has great taste.’”
She smiled brightly and rubbed my arm, but that was all I was getting right now; apparently she was finally serious about not interrupting.
“So the next morning I’m coming out of her hotel room, putting on my shirt, when I run into the guy, who’s totally shocked by this turn of events. Which made it easy for me to say, ‘Told ya she had taste. . .’”
“Yes!” she crowed, now that she was sure the story was over, then leaned against me for a cheeky kiss. “You are so my friggin’ hero!” But she couldn’t help adding, “Did you ever see her again?”
“Sure.” Knowing I was being naughty but unable to help himself, I went with, “Saw her at a Shakespeare symposium. Guess she has a lot of time to read between tours.” And sex, as I recalled, but saved that one for later, not wanting to give her any ideas. “She’s firmly in the camp that thinks Bacon wrote Shakespeare.”
“Damn! Just when I was liking her!”
“Hmmm?” Once again I felt bad for stringing her along, but she might as well get used to it, I mused. Besides, my back was still achy.
“I can’t stand those people who say it was Bacon that really wrote Shakespeare.” She made a face that he was sure she’d been practicing since she was about two.
“Yeah, they’re pretty crazy.”
“Thank you!”
“Everyone knows it was Marlowe that wrote Shakespeare.”
“No! Go away!”
“No! I didn’t mean that.” Unable to stop herself, she went with contrite again.
“Typical woman. I need to go downstairs anyway.”
“I’ll try not to be bored.” This time she tried gloomy, even as she realized I’d never buy it, considering how well I knew her.
“Here.” Pulling it out of my pocket, I passed over the electronic chess game.
“Awesome! See ya later!”
Knowing that was coming, I yawned and moved from the railing, going southward so as to enter the main sitting room from behind, hoping to catch someone in the act. I didn’t, so I took the opportunity to hit the restroom before going back up top.
There she still was, leaning over the railing much like she had at the observatory, one foot up, leaning on forearms. She seemed to be intent on whatever was in her hands, which figured to be the chess game, so I was able to come right up to her, stand behind her a little to the side, and lean forward to lick her ear.
The loud yelp was certainly satisfying, though I was thankful for her great hands, otherwise the next person using the chess game would have been a mermaid, if it still worked while waterlogged.
Once she’d stopped shuddering and calmed down, she leaned her head onto my shoulder and tried lovey-dovey, though I assumed she was wiping her ear.
“What are you grinning at?”
“You’ll never be an honorary Canadian with that suspicious look, mister!”
“I already am,” I grinned, “and you’re talking your way out of a recommendation.”
“Too late! You promised!”
“Did not!”
She laughed and told me to go away, so I did.
Having seen how bright the light was coming in on my last trip inside–the cabin was well-lit, but still looked murky in comparison–I now slipped quickly through the side of the door, then stood just inside it, behind the empty bar, reasonably certain it would take more than a quickly glance to be spotted.
And that’s when I saw him, one of the stewards, rummaging through what was obviously a woman’s purse on the left side of the wide cabin. Since the guy was facing away, and using the light from the window to see what he was stealing, his vision would be too off to spot me, but on the other hand I had to adjust my camera quite a bit to get more than a silhouette of the suspect, and without the flash going off. Hopefully the man’s features, other than his face, would be enough to identify him later.
Staying at my post as long as it took, I was momentarily startled when the steward straightened up and turned to come toward me. I bowed my head down to pretend to be looking at the camera’s display, then twisted it sideways in hopes of catching a shot of the guy as he walked by. . .
Once again topside, I moved in behind her and hugged her from behind, placing my chin on her shoulder. There was no yelp this time, not even a little bit of surprise; the smile told me she instantly knew who it was. We stayed like that till the announcement that the ship was close to docking, no surprise to us as we’d recognized the surroundings and then the Space Needle from far away.
We were the first ones off, but instead of letting her skip off to grab a taxi or such, I pulled her to the side and told her to wait. She’d noticed the police gathered around the embarkation zone, but hadn’t made much of it, and now was even more surprised when I didn’t go meet the cops, just sat on the railing next to her.
Finally all the passengers were off and it was time for the crew to come out and the cleaning people to go in. At this point the police, equally as bored as she’d been the last few minutes, perked up and moved forward, easily spotting their target and quickly snapping cuffs on the surprised man.
The almost-equally surprised blonde stared, then looked at me, seeing me grinning at her reaction. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Shrug. “I heard somewhere that you like surprises.”
Turning back to the action, feeling like she had to show me I couldn’t get away with things like that. . . except she couldn’t think of anything to teach me a lesson, so she settled for watching the proceedings with a huge sense of pride, like she’d solved the case all by herself.
Unintentionally quoting a cartoon, I smirked, “I think we cweated some havoc. . .”


Travel Thursday: Victorian Canada, part 1

A cool wind blew in from Puget Sound, toward the northern end of Seattle’s docks. . . well, the stiff breeze was probably hitting the entire shore, but right now the temperature near Pioneer Square was of absolutely no consequence, at least to the people in this story.
I yawned as I waited for my companion on this trip to arrive. Not a morning person by any means, and still an hour away from a possible nap on the ferry, I was trying not to feel ornery, while wondering what in my childhood made me so obsessive about being on time, or rather, early to all appointments. Not like I had a German nanny, or any nanny, growing up. . .
Luckily those thoughts didn’t last long, and since my eyes were open anyways, I took out my camera to see if there was any possibility at all of finding a new angle from which to shoot the Space Needle.
Yeah, doubtful.
And then the car arrived, and she stepped out of the back seat, trying with every bit of muscle control to make it appear smooth and effortless. I’d always liked that about her, that she somehow managed to be both strong and graceful. Look at what you’re missing, men of the world. I’m worth something.
Not that such thoughts were at all conscious in Alanna’s mind, but it wasn’t just my projections either. She was a fascinating stew of contradictions, a tightrope she walked as naturally and gracefully as she moved through the world.
She fascinated me. Forget about her beauty–it was her spirit. . .
All of which added to what I expected to be a fun trip ahead.
I did not hesitate on my way to a hug, ignoring the other gals coming out of the car. “I know I shouldn’t be thinking this, but you really smell good!”
“Thanks anyway!” she chuckled. Already having fun, she patted me on the shoulder while adding, “At least you didn’t lie about me being beautiful this time.”
I sighed. “After a while this false modesty shit wears thin. Now, repeat after me: I am a hottie.”
Grinning, and surprising her friends, who were still standing around gawking, she did. She truly was beautiful, she just couldn’t admit it to herself. Which I liked about her, but only so much.
Breaking into that wide smile that had given her some small laugh lines as a teen, she beamed, “I’m so happy to see ya I can’t think of one smart-alecky remark!”
Pleased that she felt the same way, I took advantage of my camera already being out to snap a quick shot, which caused her to stick her tongue out–I’d shot that tongue many times before–and then go back to her friends for a group mug.
Not that I saw any of the other gals, past making sure they were in the shot. Most guys would feel the same way, with Alanna being every inch of six feet highlighted by a blonde braid at least half as long, a waist-length plait of the most beautiful flaxen hair nature ever created. Striking eyes and relatively delicate features, considering the rest of her, only highlighted her beauty.
Finally she said her goodbyes and strapped on her giant backpack. I was already waiting for her at the ramp, bags secured and tickets in hand. She blushed a little, for reasons she’d never be able to explain even to herself, and joined me.
Once again, as she walked in my direction, I noticed the gracefulness of her strides that I had often tried to photograph, mostly without success. She was a six-foot ballerina, and as I let her go first and took in the braid, I remembered the first time we met, and the little joke I told her: she’d stared blankly for a moment, then gave me a smile that made me catch my breath.
“Oh, you’re a blusher! Good. My record for making a girl blush in one day is 43. It’s a late start this afternoon, but we can at least try. Good, there’s #2.”
“Still the same one!” she tried to squeak.
That had been so many years ago, but in many ways our relationship hadn’t changed.
“You remembering that first time too?”
She smiled; just like that, she relaxed.
A few minutes of silent walking later we’d found our seats, and she graciously gave me the window, since she knew Seattle very well and was planning to wander outside once we reached the islands. But of course we had to put our bags away first, giving me a chance to check out her muscular bottom and braid in the same glance. As was my wont, I reached out and lightly pulled on it.
I couldn’t see it, but knew she was smiling. “You’ve got a braid fetish, boy.”
“It makes you look innocent.”
She turned and raised an eyebrow, obviously trying to change said appearance. “Whadya mean, look?”
“You were never innocent.”
“I’m still innocent,” she insisted, but not that hard. “And you must have had the fetish before you met me.”
“You are not my first braid babe,” I acknowledged, waiting for her to smile before adding, “in Seattle.”
Her eyes widened, and she turned her body to face me.
Sighing, I knew there was no way he was going to tell her about that volleyball player, but luckily I had another place I could go with that, which would entertain her a lot more. And she knew the girl in the story too, an added bonus.
And of course at the end she had to ask, grinning, “So, did you sleep with her?”
I could only sigh, even though I’d expected it.
“That answers that, I suppose.”
“Wish it was that simple. She was giving me the hard-to-get routine, then finally came out and asked about you and me.”
Gasp. “Oh no!”
“Yep. I told her we were just friends, hoping that would put the issue to rest. But she actually became less interested after that. I thought she was one of those people who was only interested in the chase, or hated you and was trying to piss you off, but then I realized that she was assuming I was gay.”
She choked slightly on her water bottle. “You? You, of all people? Oh no!”
“Straight up.” I gazed back at her with a slight smile, sighing happily. “Guess you owe me one. . .”
That made her laugh hysterically for the next ten minutes, but I didn’t mind. Her body was fun to watch as it shook. . .
“Of course, it’s likely none of that would have happened if she went with a simple ponytail.”
A rolling of the eyes. “This is starting to sound obsessive.”
“You shouldn’t take it that way. I love your braid, but I don’t love you because of your braid.”
She didn’t think I meant love in that way, so she ignored that. Luckily the boat gave a jolt and she instinctively looked out the window. But then the woman who’d sat down on her other side gave a loud grumble, enough for the big blonde, always a good girl, to ask if she was all right.
“They told me I would get a great view of the pin, but the rain obscured it,” she whined.
“The what?”
“You know.” Impatiently she waved toward the back of the boat. “Seattle’s famous pin.”
Trying not to laugh and spoil the fun, I wondered at what point she would realize the woman meant needle, as in Space Needle. This could go on till we reached Victoria. . .
Then she looked over at me, saw me trying not to laugh, and got it in that instant.
“You’re too smart for your own good,” I sighed. “C’mon, let’s go upstairs.”
Up we went, her taking the stairs like a football drill and me following with considerably less enthusiasm. Luckily it was a small fast ferry, no cars, so we didn’t have to climb four stories to get to the open-air deck.
As I expected, as soon as we found an empty railing spot she started up with James Bond trivia, and with our extensive knowledge, and having watched the movies together so often, it took a while to get back on track, if an ocean-going vessel could be said to be on a track, outside of Disneyland.
“Whatever,” she finally huffed, though she should have anticipated I’d know more about redheaded Bond girls than her. On the other hand, she was still bouncing from the excitement of the trip, putting her forearms down on the railing and looking out at the water and the islands they we were already starting to thread through.
“Don’t break through the railing, big girl.”
She gasped in an unfamiliar girlish way. “You don’t think I’m fat, do ya?”
I smacked the back of her thigh, eliciting a more natural startled gasp. “Pure muscle. Anyone says different, I kick their ass.”
She grinned and wrapped an arm around my shoulders; yeah, she had quite a wingspan. “You’re a good friend.”
“There can be no greater honor in this world.”
She blushed, something she really wasn’t all that prone to doing anymore. . . so she kept telling herself. Bored, she told me she was going back down for a nap. By the time I joined her she was fast asleep, with a mischievous smile. She did not tell me her dreams when she awoke, which was much later than she’d expected; no power nap here. Yawing, she noticed I was playing a video game. . . blink blink. She must still be asleep, because she knew I hated video games, especially hand held ones.
Craning closer, she finally noticed it was chess. Okay, that made sense.
“Ex-girlfriend got it for me,” I told her absently. “Then she complained I’d rather play it than talk to her. Me, the guy she called sensitive!”
“It ain’t fair,” she laughed. “I gotta meet her.”
“That’s what they all say,” I muttered.
“Sure. Can that thing play two?”
“Yeah.” I flicked a few buttons and let her move first; she thought that was very gracious of me. The rest of the game was not, though she tried to convince herself she’d made a good showing. After eliciting a promise of another game soon, she consented to a scrounging expedition for breakfast.
On the way up she mused, “I wonder why they call it checkmate,” then winced at my grin.
“Do you really want to know?”
“Might as well.” Sigh.
“It comes from the Arabic shah mat, which literally means the king is dead.”
She brightened. “So that Iranian ruler who was called a Shah. . . he was really being called a king, right?”
Always happy at having learned something, she checked the menu with her usual big ol’ smile. Knowing something like pancakes and eggs was iffy in such a place, she stated that it was hard to ruin cereal, then watched in dismay as I sampled the bacon. Eager to change the subject, she went with, “Gloria really thought you were gay?”
“You’ll have to ask her. You can always tell her she doesn’t know what she missed.”
“How would I know that myself? Okay then, since I owe ya a gal, how ‘bout that chick over there?”
I sighed. “You’re perfect. I hold everyone to your standard, so I’m doomed to spend my life alone.”
She sighed too, though not dramatically enough to warn me before she said, “If only you meant that. . .”
“Eat your cereal.”
“Yes boss.” Seated by a big window, she watched more islands slip by. “I can’t believe I’ve never taken this trip before. It’s so beautiful. I could live here.”
“Sure, just takes a couple of million.”
“Yeah, I know a millionaire who lives on Orcas. Maybe we can visit her after this is done.”
“Her?” Blonde eyebrows waggled.
“You’ll see.”
“No hints?”
“You expect hints when you never give them?”
“Oh darn, ya caught me,” she deadpanned.
As though to punish her for not taking that seriously, I shrugged and turned around to converse with the German-speaking young babes behind me. I’d been following the conversation and had an instant in. . .
Alanna had childishly thought giving me the cold shoulder would teach me not to treat her in such a way, but so far I didn’t seem to be getting the message, damn him and all men. Why, I even seemed to be flirting with those tourists. . . in German! She tried to pretend the blondes were laughing because they couldn’t figure out what I was saying, but that didn’t work either.
Stop it! she told herself. You’re acting like he’s your boyfriend!
That was a cold bucket of water to the braid, or rather the scalp under it.
There, that should just about do it, I grinned to myself as I told the German gals I’d be right back. Alanna was good at learning lessons, and I figured this was enough to show her the error of her ways, and to keep her from being a “typical” woman, as I liked to call her whenever she annoyed me, because it never ceased to annoy her back.
Not bothering to wonder why a split–whatever that was–of champagne was listed under breakfast items, I bought some for the German girls and left them to their own devices, just to see if they’d get jealous when they saw Alanna.
Who was beaming as I returned to the table.
“I have been thinking,” she announced, then quickly continued before I went there, “and I know exactly what chick to give you as a makeup. She’s not even a chick, she’s my cousin. Her name’s Sharon and she lives in El Lay.”
“Is she anything like you?”
“I’m easily the tallest in my family, and she’s delightfully slim, but we do look alike, at least I think so. Look her up when you get back. You deserve it.”
I grinned, then mimicked her “You’re such a good friend. . .”
She hooted. “I was so sure you were going to say ‘Does she?’”
“I used that one last time.”
“Hard to keep track. For instance, every time I ask if they’re gonna make a movie about your life, you always tell me the perfect actor is busy, but it’s a different actor each time.”
“Who would play you?”
“Julia Roberts,” came the prompt reply, as if she’d been waiting for the opportunity.
My snort took her by surprise. “How ‘bout someone pretty? And blonde.”
“What’s your suggestion?”
“Daryl Hannah, Splash version.”
She was stunned. . . but I knew she loved it.
Hmmm, I knew a shop in Seattle that sold mermaid stuff. . .
The time slipped by quickly, mostly with another game of pocket chess, then listening to music with the double jack on my MP3 player when the ship made a right turn into the harbor, hopefully checking to make sure no float planes were coming in for a landing. Finding it fitting, I played On the Beautiful Blue Danube, timing it perfectly, the music swelling and building joyously and the final climax occurring just as we docked. She wondered how many times I’d seen 2001: Space Odyssey.
Well, maybe it only took one. . .
“I woulda hated the Victorian age,” she whispered, just to see if I smiled.
“No doubt.”
Because we weren’t lugging much gear, and because I knew the way so well, it was less than a ten minute walk to the hotel, and less than five minutes at the front desk, and suddenly we were in our room. She laughed at the fact I’d only gotten one room, but with two beds.
“I didn’t want anyone thinking I’m gay.”
She hooted at that one as she unpacked, as usual for a female staking out the counter space and drawers as quickly as she could. “I just repaid you for the other one, and I don’t have any other single gorgeous family members.”
“Hmmm. I might have to check that for myself. . .”
I saw her blush, but decided to leave it for later, since that was always a good tease. Despite her personality, she really wasn’t a girly-girl.
Knowing I’d noticed, but anxious not to go there, she quickly asked, “Did you know my middle name is Shannon?”
“Not Kathleen?”
“Shannon’s Irish!”
“But Shannon’s a redhead’s name.”
“Oh. Okay, I’ll bow to your expertise about redheads, especially Irish ones. Lunchtime yet?”
“Sure. On to the French fry place.”
Grinning widely, she hugged me from behind for knowing her so well. And I knew her so well he expected the hug, and therefore did not instinctively flip her over my head as I’d often done when surprised in such a manner.
“How far?”
“Just a few blocks away.” I knew her favorite food was French fries, but since I’d been planning to go that way anyhow. . .
“Did you say Big Mac cheese only?” came the voice from the back, once my order had been passed along and she’d remarked on how quickly we’d gotten there.
A short-haired blonde popped her head into the opening. “Hi, Paul!”
“Hey, Andy. Can’t believe you’re still working here.”
“Yeah, I get to study more than manage. Extra cheese, no doubt?”
“No doubt.”
“What’s all that about?” Alanna whispered. “As if I don’t know. She’s cute.”
“First time I came here, I ordered my usual. She found it most unusual–she likes to quote Audrey Hepburn–so she asked if I’d like extra cheese to make up for all the stuff I didn’t want. Of course I said yes. That’s never happened anywhere else. Just goes to show how Canadians are.”
She nodded happily. “I hope to someday be an honorary Canadian.”
“You already are. You just have to ace the test.”
Only a couple of minutes later the manager, who turned out to be shorter and thinner than Alanna had imagined, came out front to hand-deliver the Big Mac, giving me a hug and kiss on the cheek while still managing to throw a clinical eyeballing over his companion. “Not too shabby, you louse. Though some makeup would fix that washed-out blonde look; you really oughtta spend more than five bucks on a haircut. I don’t bother, but if I had your potential, I might make the effort.”
“Guys like me just fine,” Alanna replied through gritted teeth. “Besides, I have no time for dating right now, and this hair says no long before they ask. And I also want to set the record for longest blonde braid.” That was one of my lines, but she figured I wouldn’t mind.
The girl looked doubtful, making Alanna rethink the whole “honorary Canadian” thing, because that hadn’t been a nice thing for a Canuck to say. But she wouldn’t give in and lose her own niceness, instead smiling through her teeth and asking the way to the ladies’ room.
Remembering she was representing the entire multinational conglomerate, Andy pointed the way nicely, then grumbled, “What’s she got that I don’t?”
I smiled down fondly at my absolutely gorgeous local blonde friend. “About an extra foot, both in height and braid.”
She shook her head sadly. “You’re weird.”
“So I’m told. But no weirder than a McDonald’s with a chandelier.”
Embracing that supposed lunacy, she looked up and recited, “Thirty thousand dollars, American. Left over from when this was a bank.”
Unlike most women, Alanna was back quickly–it certainly couldn’t be out of jealousy, not wanting to leave me alone with a rival–and immediately munched on the first set of fries, waving bye-bye at Andy and walking out, not bothering to see if I was right behind her.
“That woulda been awesome,” I smirked as I caught up with her, after a big tight Andy hug, “had you actually been my girlfriend. But at least this proves, conclusively, that you are indeed a girly-girl. No denying it now.”
“How can you possibly think that?” she barked a laugh. “Look at me. My body’s so big and muscular. I’m a tomboy.”
“The fact that you’re obsessing about your body proves you’re a girly-girl.”
She grinned, though realizing she’d left that way too easy. “Okay, so we’re not going back there for dinner. I’m sure you know real restaurants in town.”
“There’s a place where you can get cockroach-of-the-sea for twelve dollars Canadian.”
“Breakfast, lunch, and dinner!” she whooped.
“While I go back there and study the chandelier.”
“And a certain blonde?” she asked with eyes narrowed. For some reason, she wasn’t feeling good about the thought of me wanting to return. She didn’t know why, although she wondered why the Gin Blossoms’ song “Hey Jealousy” kept playing in her head. Trying to get back on track, she perkily asked “Ever give her any of your happy juice?” much too perkily for a six-footer.
I thought of her as a closet gymnast. “A gentleman never tells.”
“And neither do you.” Grinning at beating me to the punch line, she quickly moved to the side to avoid the pinch she knew was coming, and ran into someone. Though she managed to hold on to the fries, she still felt the need to apologize profusely, despite the black woman smiling at her.
“Do not worry,” the woman told the tall blonde in such a refined accent that I instinctively knew she’d been raised in Africa or the Caribbean and received schooling in England. “Where I am from it is so crowded we. . .” She suddenly frowned, unable to think of an appropriate metaphor.
“Where’s that?”
“I am from the former Abyssinia.”
“Wow, you’re a long way from home,” Alanna allowed, and the woman smiled again before bidding goodbye. I almost farewell’ed her in Italian, then decided against it.
Feeling better now, and looking around like a true tourist, Alanna asked, “So, where are we going?”
“A place I haven’t been to in far too long.”
“You gonna tell me?”
“I’ll tell the cabbie, if we find one. Cover your ears if you want to be surprised.”
She noticed the cab first, hailed it, and jumped in before I could say another word, then felt foolish as the driver grinned at her. But all was fine when she heard me say, “Observatory, please. And there’s an extra hundred if you wait for us.”
The cabbie got into gear and looked to be mentally calculating. “Deal.”
Alanna grinned for no reason, then said, “You’re the only person who knows me so well.”
“Don’t pretend. No one else believes me when they hear this English lit major likes to study the stars.”
“I question the first part of that statement, considering you only pretended to know what Abyssinia was. And no, you didn’t fool that lady either.”
“I know,” she laughed, “but I never claimed to be a geography expert, you geography expert you.”
“Don’t pretend,” I mimicked her well enough to make the cabbie laugh. “You know better.”
“Okay, I know,” she did her best contrite, which wasn’t much. “I admit it sounds damn familiar!”
“‘A damsel with a dulcimer in a vision I once saw; she was an Abyssinian maid, and on her dulcimer she played, singing of Mount Abora.’”
“Not so nice if you can’t remember what it’s from!”
“Ancient Mariner!”
“Wrong!. . . well, half right for getting the author.”
“Kubla Khan!”
“Damn, I was gonna say that,” the cabbie groused.

tbc. . .