Travel Thursday Encore: Last Day in Seattle

My last “continental” breakfast: an orange, a donut, orange juice. I think I was still feeling the amazingly pleasurable aftereffects of yesterday’s Kobe burger. {Yes, I suppose it could have been the waitress, shut up.}
Had to get to the airport early, but not “too” early, so I had time to explore. Unfortunately I was feeling too tired to go looking for some old haunts from previous trips downtown, as I had planned, so instead I laid in bed; don’t ask me what I thought or did during that time, I don’t remember. Since the bus to the airport stopped a couple of blocks from the hotel, I figured that made up for not searching for the futuristic movie theater where I saw “Lawnmower Man 2,” for instance, among other places I’d visited in previous trips that I wanted to see again. . . just not too much.
Glad I remembered the monorail doesn’t start up till 11, which would have been a lot of walking with a big backpack for nothing. This time I did catch the express instead of the stop-every-block, so I had to put up with less scenery, or rather the same amount but speeded up too quickly to worry about.
Sea-Tac sometimes gets silly, but there were no problems passing by security on this trip, even though the lines were longer than Long Beach and I had to struggle a bit more with my boots. The guy right before me in the security line forgot the rule about no lighters and chucked his in the bin with a look of regret. Didn’t see why, it was just a plain plastic thing you can get at any drugstore–not exactly a heirloom or even with a sports team on it–but he probably hated begging for a light as soon as the plane landed.
You can tell Sea-Tac is a “modern” airport because it has a “family” restroom.
Saw a young guy wearing U Dub gear and we talked for a while, until it came out that his father usta be the coach at. . . oh, shit, this guy was the kid of my college coach! What are the frickin’ odds? Surreal. And since we didn’t get along–me and the coach, I mean–I certainly didn’t want to relive any memories, and was glad when I was told Daddy was not coming to the airport to pick him up. Though it did make me feel a little bit good, in a narcissistic way, that the kid had decided against playing for his father and went to another U. Ha!
As I saw a Qantas flash by outside the window, I wondered if they still showed the pre-flight video of a pre-fame and always beautiful Tara Fitzgerald doing all the safety procedures. Then I wondered if I could buy it. . . it’s one of her best works. {okay, that was a little bit mean, but she’ll never read this.
I hope.}
I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY WANT SEVEN DOLLARS FOR THAT SMOOTHIE! The whole eating experience was so in contrast to the beginning of the trip at the Long Beach airport, with the bored servers and the long waiting.
Heavy G takeoff–thought Sea-Tac was longer. I’ve flown out of Sea-Tac so many times, but I don’t remember anything like this one. In fact, don’t remember anything so heavy G since Ayers Rock. Not as bad as a carrier takeoff, of course, but enough to bring some flashbacks as you wait for your eyeballs to plop back into place.

Seattle, airport, Sea-Tac
The soft drinks and juice were free, and the beer was five bucks; it just seemed really funny to me that the flight attendant was checking IDs! You think that was in her job description when she signed up?
On the flight up, Alaska had given packs of “trail mix,” with part of the devilish brew being garlic and onion powder, but this time it was pretzels! As an experienced traveler I had brought my own provisions, but pretzels were gravy!. . . so to speak. Ok, dessert, then.
This flight seemed a lot longer than the first, probably because the woman sitting next to me was reading and didn’t want to talk. So what, I could listen to music for two hours, no different than an El Lay commute, except there was nothing to look at. Then I noticed that across the aisle a man was reading–the cover had huge print, like it was proud of itself–“The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices.”
It actually took longer to take the bus home than the flight, and that’s not counting the baggage carrousel dance and the wait for the first bus. And I don’t care what she says, I was NAWT flirting with the girl with the Suthin’ accent and bright green nails. . .



Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 4, Part 3

Uninteresting hours passed by in the hotel room, followed by one last uninteresting hour of business crap, just long enough to make sure I’d be going to Scandinavia in a few months. Now that all the business stuff was settled and over, I hopped back on a bus and got off right next to the Frye Art museum, with Pill Hill in the background–it’s actually called First Hill, but there’s a bunch of hospitals there, and Seattleites–like stalactites–are witty people.
I start this with a sad admission: the savage Neanderthals that run the Frye Art Museum do not allow photo-taking! On the other hand, it’s free, which doesn’t come close to making up for it but is something very much worth mentioning. It looks kinda small from the outside, but felt really big inside, with plenty of places to sit and rest. The store and café are indeed tiny, but I had a lot of fun talking to the older lady who was clerking the store, at least for a while. She was one of the most talkative people I’ve ever met.
On to da show. I found their collection similar to the Huntington’s in Los Angeles, though of course much smaller. It leans toward the pastoral and portraits, mostly late 1800s/early 1900s, with no sign of taking a risk on anything. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pleasant enough, but I have to say Mr. and Mrs. Frye had a very narrow taste when it came to art.
But while I was there I saw an amazing–unfortunately temporary–exhibition called Moon Beam Caress, by an artist named Joseph Park, a graduate of the Cornish School I mentioned earlier. I’m not what you would call a Modern Art fan, nor do I spend any time gawking at anime, but somehow he’s managed to fuse the two. Half of his works on display had otherwise cute animals acting as humans, and usually acting very bad. One famous example had a gang of teddy bears/rabbits beating up a darker version. Most are sublime, like a painting of an NYC subway with a teddy bear trying to get out, or another bear ironing a shirt, or a rabbit sitting on a crate taking a cigarette break. And all in an almost cartoonish style, though there’s nothing silly about them. Most disturbing was the elephant-like submarine commander with the chilly gaze.
Someone told me this story about modern art, reputedly told by Picasso, but I can’t be sure: “When a master like Cezanne paints a wild horse, you see a wild horse, but when I paint a wild horse. . . you may not see the horse, but you will see the wild.” There’s one painting of a very wild horse, with tresses Farrah Fawcett would be proud to own, that somehow bridges the gap between those two extremes. He also takes famous paintings and puts his own spin on it, like Ingres’ “La Grande Odalisque” now being played by an elephant. There’s also Canaletto’s “Venice,” which he paints as if he were looking at the canal scene through a glass of water, or maybe after a nuclear holocaust, with the buildings looking melted. I loved his stuff so much I actually bought the book, which I NEVER do!
Walking aimlessly for a while after the museum, I found myself near the Metropolitan Grill again, and there was just something I needed another fix off. Okay, two things, but I was pretty sure Autumn wouldn’t still be on shift, and she wasn’t, so I settled in at the still-not-too-smoky bar for another of those amazing orange sodas, though the bartender, a totally Russian-looking guy, didn’t include any ice cream. Which makes Autumn all the more special, in my eyes, but enough of that. Stayed only long enough to finish it off, talking to a suited gentleman sitting next to me enjoying a shrimp cocktail–hey, TWO things I’m allergic to in one glass!–and trading jokes about Fresno.
Back to walking, I remembered a little clue to downtown Seattle’s geography, as told to me during pillow talk {don’t ask}: JESUS CHRIST MADE SEATTLE UNDER PROTEST! This is how you remember the order of streets, starting north of Yesler–Jefferson and James, Cherry and Columbia, Marion and Madison, Spring and Seneca, University and Union, and Pike and Pine. Have fun memorizing!
Back to the hotel with still no need for dinner, until it came time to walk back to Belltown for another concert at the Croc Café. Instead of walking at straight angles like I had the previous times, on this trip I zigzagged the route for fun, and to see new things. When I saw I’d gone as far south as I needed to, and noticed I only had to go one block to the west, I luckily looked up in time to see the name of the store on the corner, enough to make me stop: Salon Divas. Making sure it wasn’t a hair place, I peeked in through the window and laughed, thinking of the dancing waitress I’d fallen into severe like with a few hours ago. I might have figured her for a dance instructor, to earn a little extra cash, but luckily she was as un-diva as they came. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know what kind of dancer Autumn was. She coulda been salsa, coulda been ballroom, coulda been hip-hop–shit, did I just think that?–coulda been a ballerina. . . coulda been exotic. Hmmm. Glad I hadn’t thought of that before.
Concert, and its venue, not worth the pixels.
I got back to the hotel much later than I expected, where I fell on the bed and temporarily died.


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 Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 4, Part 1

I’d thought from the moment I arrived at this hotel on Monday that the neighborhood looked familiar, and not because of the Needle, and as I walked along I saw why. The Quick Shuttle to–and from–Vancouver has one of their stops at another hotel a block away; took that ride plenty of times.
Walking from the hotel toward downtown, the monorail made a pretty whooshing sound overhead. I basically followed that route, just for fun, and I quickly knew when I’d been walking for ten minutes because another monorail whooshed by me. It really is a pretty sound–something like a Mai Bloomfield cello solo–and echoes, or is it reverbs, even better in the rain.
Went to the office this morning for a major meeting and was talking to the secretary beforehand, without flirting of course, when this incredibly stressed guy came in and took a seat. I didn’t think he was a model, but the sec still explained that he was here to try out for a photographer opening {wow, that sounds really dirty, if you try hard enough}. So I talked to him, and he got majorly pissed that I’ve never taken a photo class in my life, whereas he went to college and studied it for 4 years. {Yes, I’m better than him, it was pretty obvious from his photos.} So, simply because I knew I’d never get a better chance to say this in my life, I told him, “Don’t hate da playa, hate da game.”
As usual, the meetings were hella boring, but they have to be done, or else people won’t pay me to travel. . .
Seemingly just down the street as I got out, there’s Pike Place, and it’s been a few trips since I’ve wandered through there. . . but no, something caught my eye that seemed much more important at the moment. Technically still part of Pike’s, yet on the street outside. . . how can I resist a place called Bohemian Massage? Fatigued after three days of non-stop, high-intensity touristing, not to mention a few meetings concerning my business future, I didn’t realize how much I needed to relieve both my tiredness and stress until I literally bumped into it. As I looked at the menu of services, I found I couldn’t decide between all the yummy-sounding options: a typical massage was obviously the favorite, on my injured lower back that was screaming for attention, but a foot massage, reflexology, Swedish massage, neck and shoulder massage. . . it all sounded good. Just about the only thing I ruled out was a manicure/pedicure and henna paintings.
Bohemia Therapeutic Massage is theoretically part of Pike Place Market, located in the Sanitary Market Building–so named because it was the first to outlaw horses on the premises–but it faces First Street; no need to go into the labyrinth of little shops to find it. It didn’t take more than a minute inside, talking to Bo, the massage lady, to realize the store title was apt in more ways than one. Both the store and the lady herself gave off a hippie air, and as we spoke during the massage she quickly told me she was from the north part of the Czech Republic, known to most people as Bohemia, so the name was both literal and figurative.
Bo looked to be in her middle 40s, but very casually told me she was approaching seventy. If that’s a testament to her lifestyle, then I’m jumping on the massage bed right now. Her arms had muscles bodybuilders would be proud of.
Took a while to find a place to store my backpack and clothes that wouldn’t be in the way–the actual massage room, on the side, was a bit tiny–but finally I was lying on the table and she was oiling me up and working dem muscles. It was pretty amazing that she spent the whole time on just my lower back, yet used so many different techniques. I’m also amazed that I remember any of it, since she kept me pretty entertained with her musing and ramblings. She seemed to talk nonstop, starting with have I ever been to Bohemia, of course, but she was also a good listener. Perhaps no one who’d ever come into her store knew what a Bohemia was, and I was the first who’d actually been there. She laughed heartily at the joke that the Bohemian language had so many accents it looked like a bunch of flies had fallen on the page. I don’t know if she has similar experiences with all her customers, but for some reason I felt like we really bonded.
Even after we were done and there were no other customers for the moment–she said lunch hour was her busiest time–I stayed awhile to talk. And as I walked out, along with her very cool red business card, she handed me a parting gift–a tiny ceramic ladybug! I still carry it everywhere I go; it’s become a great luck charm. . .
Boy, I needed that! Though as usual it doesn’t last. I was slowly wearing down from all the running around of the last three days, but since I didn’t have much planned for tomorrow, I figured I’d go all out today.
Pike’s Place is such a fascinating locale. I think I figured out why all the shops, at least in the old part, are so tiny: it used to be a whorehouse! When you see the old sign advertising Peaches, I’m not sure it’s the fruit. They even handed out business cards to the arriving sailors which said, “Friends easily made.” I can tell you so many stories–this time non-sexual–about wandering these halls, with that little cubbyhole of mysteries, the Lefty Store, being told to meet someone at the Sasquatch statue, Holy Cow Records, Market Magic, Old Seattle Paperworks, Pharaoh’s Treasures, Women’s Hall of Fame, Yesterdaze, Metsker Maps, Market Coins, The Great Windup–toys!–Cinnamon Works, and, of course the strip club that said, “featuring 50 beautiful girls and 3 ugly ones.” And no flying fish! And as always wondering if there was anything worth seeing in the upper floors of most of the buildings, not just offices.

strip club, 50 beautiful girls and three ugly ones

After buying some special scissors and a T-shirt, which I still use frequently, at the Lefty Store–IT’S A LEFTY WORLD! The dude recognizes me!–spent some time haunting the corridors, my nose usually closed around all the fish, as well as near the Daycare center. I was looking for that man who made the clay bird whistles I had met on the forever-long Coast Starlight train so long ago, but that’s another story, and he’s probably retired by now. Did see the store with the Mexican Indian stuff, where I got a beaded jaguar mask on sale, but the last time I was there the female half of the ownership was so rude I deliberately walked by this time. Hell, I almost went back to the Lefty store to get more stuff, show ‘em what real customer service was. As I recall, the Lefty Store at the Rocks in Sydney had excellent customer service as well. And of course, just for symmetry, the area where this Lefty Store is located is known as “Down Under.”
Now feeling hungry, I ambled over to my usual Pike Place dining experience, Three Girls Bakery, where the display is usually enough to get the drool started. “Because of the food or the three girls?” you wonder, a logical and hopefully innocent question. Well, I’ll just grin and attempt to be mysterious. . .
Unfortunately, for the first time ever, I didn’t find anything I was in the mood for, or generally appetizing–don’t ask whether the girls were appetizing, it’s just a name–but luckily I didn’t have to walk far to get to a produce stand, where I saw the most succulent grapes I’d ever laid peeled eyes on. The hippie-looking guy begged me to try one, and as I looked to the side of the stands I saw a view as yummy as the grape in my mouth. . .
She assured me the grapes were especially sweet today, which was a mistake on her part–like they’re not gonna be as sweet tomorrow?–but I let it go. She was a perky little brunette in pigtails that I hope were the reason she looked so young–well, the shortness might have something to do with it–and throughout the entire conversation the huge smile never left her skull. I pictured her as a college student, maybe U Dub, maybe Seattle U, which was much closer. Either studying Ag, or maybe the stand belonged to her parents, or maybe it was just a job–go ahead and fanwank if you must. I really couldn’t picture her in high school, since this was school hours, not summer, and she looked like she knew what she was doing. I did not get the name of her stand, but it’s right on the diagonal corner–you’ll know it when you see it! And if you do spot her, tell her I still pine for her, just so she can look at you weirdly because she has no idea who you’re talking about. . .
But, back to the moment. “That really was a good choice,” she assured me as she handed me the pound of grapes that would be all I needed for lunch and took my money. “I try them every day, and they really are extra sweet today.”
“As sweet as. . .?”
She gave me a quizzical look.
“I thought you were going to say ‘as sweet as me’.”
She gave out a hoot. “I don’t toot my own horn! You’d have to find out for yourself.”
I brightened. “Okay!”
Her eyes widened. “Hey, waitaminute. . .” Then she saw my urchin-boy grin and laughed, wagging a finger at me as she went into the back.
I asked the hippie dude, who’d obviously seen the whole thing, what time they opened in the morning, which was probably a dumb question to ask farm-related workers, but it did give me something to do before heading off to the airport, if I didn’t forget as thoroughly as I did with that beautiful jogger the other day.
Already munching as I walked along, I turned a corner and totally remembered the spot where I’d taken the photo of a cute teenage violinist that reminded me so much of Hilary Hahn, my fave, though she later denied it was her, while looking at the photo and admitting the girl looked a lot like her. Oh well, I’ll make a “rosin up your bow” joke later. . . and always leave a tip when you stop to listen, it’s only fair.

Seattle, music, violin, flute, violinist, flutist, girl violinist, Pike Place

The grapes being so big I could only handle one at a time, I marched past some of my other favorite eateries, like Counter-Intelligence and El Puerco Lloron–which translates to the Crying Pig, which is not as clever as one I saw in Mexico called El Puerco Relleno, the Stuffed Pig, because I always feel like one when I leave. Was pleased that I found the Sky Bridge on the first try, trying really hard not to break my blank face at the people coming up Hillclimb Corridor, better known as “Cardiac Gulch.” Luckily all my attention was focused on the next step in front of me; any grapes that got into my hand and then my mouth did so strictly on muscle memory. I was so in the zone I forgot I’d wanted to go to Procopio for some of that ol’ time gelato.
And this seems as good a place as any to take a break till next week. . .


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. . .


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.
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!


Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 3, Part 1

Officially passing the halfway mark of this long saga–imagine if I wrote so much for a three-week trip! Better yet, don’t imagine it. . .

Stepped out of the hotel and walked over to the big street just in time to see the bus flash past! Oh wait, wrong bus. Phew!
The rain finally fell silently on the beautiful city, truly an emerald city, but no one except some of the tourists minded. It was not a torrential downpour, nor a quick tropical shower. It was like an ever-present sense of wetness, more than mist, but no barrier to a fine walk. As a matter of fact, I’d found that, with the proper company, it was preferable to sunshine.
Being alone, of course, doesn’t help.
And it didn’t last–by the time the bus left me off at the top of the hill, the sun was out again. The weather had a big hand in the rest of the day, but not as expected.
Having planned on places to be today, but no set times, I figured I’d check out a neighborhood I’d never been to, Capitol Hill, and see what the views were like from there. It turned out to be another interesting great neighborhood with too many hills, like Queen Anne, again reminding me of Los Feliz, with all the little new-agey yoga bungalows and coffeeshops. I had no idea this was the gay part of town; there was no outward evidence. I also wanted to see the museum of mysteries, UFOs, and such, figuring it had to be better than the sanitized one in Seattle Center that charges two arms and half a leg, but it didn’t open till the afternoon, and I’m not a patient tourist, so I left the big avenue and turned west, noticing with a cackle that this street was called Republican.
I certainly did not expect to be sitting in a shoe repair shop with a guy named Angel, talking about every subject on Earth while giving snacks to every dog that walked by, on a leash or not. I’ve always noticed that it’s the recent immigrants that want to talk politics the most, and that was no different this time, though I don’t think Angel was that recent. As I was gawking over how many different shoe polishes he had in the store, I asked him what he would recommend for my boots, and after a quick glance he deadpanned, “Shoe polish.” Ha ha, up yours too. But he was fun enough to leave a positive impression for this journal.
With the museum still closed and social and footgear needs attended to, I eventually moved back down the road, already sweating with a combination of the sun and me dressed for rain, still heading downslope on Republican, seeing all the tiny roundabouts with trees on even the small streets; I guess that’s one way to keep the speeds down, and much prettier than sleeping policemen {what they call speedbumps in Spain}. Passed the only theater in Seattle showing Bride and Prejudice, which I never did see. Went into the Broadway market, found nothing I really needed, and walked behind it, where I came to a library. Figuring I would rest up a bit while doing some random researching, I came across some mentions of Tashkent Park, which was a block away, so I went there to rest up a little longer and think of that city, which I hadn’t been to in a long time but was pretty sure I’d be going through on my big trip either later in the year or next year.
After moving north another block, turned west on Roy–hoping it wasn’t pronounced Waugh like some Canadian version of Sade–I came across Kerry Hall–there’s that man again!–which appears to be the last remnants of the old campus of the Cornish College of the Arts. At the time it wasn’t worth much of a thought—I’m surprised I even wrote it down—but I was to remember it the next day when I went to an art museum and saw a fantastic exhibit by one of their alumni. Plus I later remembered it as a setting in a mystery novel. . .
Onward. I headed northwest on Belmont, which was a steep downhill with lotsa nice country-type houses, the kind you occasionally see in Pasadena and such. As a matter of fact, the whole walk along here, with the ivy-covered walls and little statues on the fences, reminded me of the street from Gamble House to the Rose Bowl.
Eventually I arrived at Lakeview Blvd., which when you go southwest becomes a very thin overpass, very high above Interstate 5–did I mention I was afraid of heights? The sidewalk was maybe four feet wide, with cars whizzing by even though it’s a long curve–and very elevated, don’t forget–and the barrier was less than waist high with a tube-like handling area on top. Scaaaary. But even with all that I paused to get some photos, for right across Lake Union was the Space Needle and a particularly excellent view of the monstrosity known as the Music Experience Museum. From here you could tell exactly how ugly it is, looking absolutely nothing like a broken guitar. It was so ugly I had to photograph it, ya know?
Finally got across to firmer ground, this time Eastlake Avenue, which I know well as the route to the University, the bus always going slow enough in one stretch for you to see the massive REI flagship store. But instead of continuing my walk north along this street I cut through the parking lot of the Cancer Cure Center and got on Fairview–not to be confused with the Fairview a few blocks from where I live in Pasadena. I crossed this street as well to get to the lakewalk {since it wasn’t a river, I didn’t know what else to call it. . . okay, we’ll go with waterfront}. There’s a little park and then a floating wood walk past the small marinas, until. . .
Due to the early morning rain, I had planned to go to the softball game first–if it wasn’t called off due to the weather–and then do other touristy things I had in mind, but since I had a lot of time before I had to get to U Dub, and I was right here, accidentally, where I needed to be. . . float plane!
Come back next week for plenty of photos from even higher than the Space Needle or Smith Tower!