Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lots to See in Seattle

Well, it feels like it's been a year since I visited Seattle, but it's only been about two weeks. We'll see if I can put together a string of words that makes sense...

I arrived in Seattle in the afternoon of the 27th of August by Greyhound. The trip wasn't anything exciting - confused and contradictory bureaucrats are pretty normal. There was one police encounter when we picked up someone just released from jail in Everett (they wanted to search him), but otherwise the trip was rather tame.

In need of a bite to eat, I wandered around the stadiums (the bus stop is right next to the stadium complex) and found myself a little pub. I celebrated my return to America with a burger & some cheap beer and quizzed my bartender about public transit. Not only was that line of inquiry useless, it ended up costing me an hour, as I missed the last "Sounder" train (one hour trip) and would have to use two connecting buses (two hour trip) to get to the ferry that would take me to Whidbey Island.

As a general complaint, the public transit in Seattle was a pain to understand - even folks who were employed by the transit services didn't know what was going on. I put $10 on an ORCA card (that cost a non-refundable $5) thinking "how much could a bus trip be?" - turns out $4.25 for the bus and 5.05 for the ferry left me with an immediate need to refill the card the next day. Later I'd do my research, put $27 more on my card, only to find out the ferry only charged fares one-way, meaning I had $5 on the card when I eventually left. I gave it to my hosts, of course, but the sentiment stands.

Speaking of my hosts, I should introduce them! When my parents were on vacation in Hawaii they ran into a couple who they got along with quite well. Apparently, as the two pairs independently traveled the island, they kept running into each other and this was enough for a friendship to form. When I told my parents of my travel plans I was instructed to get in contact with Crispin & Molly, and sure enough, they agreed to host me. So, after a Greyhound trip, a two-hour two-bus city trip, and a ferry ride, I walked up a small hill to a telephone booth where I was to meet one of this lauded pair.

After a minute at the telephone booth, an older Honda Odyssey rolled up containing a big smiling face. I was hailed in a Scottish accent and, once packed into the van, off we went. I cannot speak highly enough of Crispin and Molly - over the next few days I had a delightful time hearing their stories, learning about the island, and just generally being a part of their home. To just throw one more detail into the mix, Crispin is a custom upholsterer by trade and he boasts of having a chair or couch in most buildings in Seattle.

The next day (my birthday!) Crispin drove me into Seattle (he had to drop off some finished work) and I set to work wearing my shoes out. The ride into Seattle had been filled with talk of tasty food and reviews of all the restaurants (current and closed) that we passed, which informed my first action: find second breakfast. I stopped in the first place that I saw had egg on the posted menu (pro-tip, I'm not going into your restaurant if I can't see a menu with prices) which happened to be a Jersey / Philly-themed cheesesteak place. One can never escape Philly. I ordered some breakfast sandwich despite the temptation.

After breakfast I wandered up to City Hall to check "see a government building" off my list. It was great and had a wonderful view of the city, though the sightseeing advice I received was "here are the closest movie theaters" (I never expect much - guards / secretaries / clerks aren't tour guides - but "go see a movie" was a new one). I then headed downhill to check out the Underground Tour.

The Underground Tour was nice and had a lot of good information about Seattle, though it was a bit... practiced. It would have been less of an issue had the guide pushed either more into "this is fun & games" or "this is history", but the balance he hit was, well, a little off. I still had fun and learned a lot, which, I suppose, is the point.

After the tour I got a beer at "the oldest saloon in Seattle" then went to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum. The (free!) exhibit created a base-level of knowledge to which I'd add over the next two or so weeks - having that context made Juneau and Alaska's history "stick to the wall" a bit better. I spent quite a while there before making my way to the public library.

If you have a map, feel free to trace out my walking so far. What you'll notice is its a series of overlapping circles. Unlike in other cities, I did a really bad job of planning my route and ended up retracing my steps over and over. As a bonus, it was also a lot of up and down hills (as opposed to walking along the hill and only going up or down once). I was glad to sit and stare at a page in the library and I ended up writing three poems there.

Should you visit the library, apparently there's a "writers room" which I should have gone in. I did get to "see" the red room (red area? red floor?) which was... red. It's probably cooler when there's an event happening. After some writing, an attempt at using a public computer, and general staring trying to will my brain into action, it was time to leave.

This time I made sure to catch the Sounder (bonus complaint: Google searches turn up results for the soccer team, so there's always an extra step or two trying to figure out how much a "Sounder Ticket" costs) which was an absolutely delightful ride up to Mukilteo (I'm not looking at the name right now - hopefully that's correct). I posted videos somewhere in this entry. On the train and in a pub immediately afterward I wrote a fake art description, a flash fiction, and (depending on how you count) two to four poems whose subject matter has made for good "dirty old man" bar conversations (one time even earning me a car ride). They aren't going on my other blog.

I chatted about the day with Crispin & Molly, rested up, and began a new day on the 29th. Venturing back into the city, I met up with my cousin Maddy and we explored Pike Place Market and surrounds together. As with the case with a lot of conversation-heavy days, I'm not sure what all to write. We did a lot of catching up (the last time we'd seen each other was nigh on a decade ago - she was in high school and I had just graduated from college... I think). We saw the guy throw fish, I had some seafood, and we wandered around various shops filled with various curiousities.

In one amusing moment, I wanted to grab some coffee (and, you know, just sit and chat) so we approached a cafe advertised on the nearest sign. As we got closer, I saw a sign advertising hacky-sacks, at which time I said something to the effect of "who still plays hack-sack?" Five steps later, we found out. The proprietor of the hacky-sack emporium (to be fair, it was an actual shop)  met us as we were about to try the door on the (closed) cafe. The guy was on another plane of existence. Ecstatic that we had appeared in proximity to his shop, he motored through a dozen sentences before we had a moment to ask if the cafe was open. Paragraphs had spilled from his lips before Maddy and I were able to extricate ourselves from the encounter, realizing that the cafe wasn't a "coffee and chat" cafe. We found a coffee (and biscuit!) elsewhere.

As the time to split approached, we struck upon the idea of driving around Seattle, as I'd only seen a few blocks by foot. That was a bit of an adventure in itself - especially given that Maddy drove a massive truck - but it was neat to see the city in that fashion. It's about as close as I'd come to the Space Needle.

That evening I'd meet a mystery person - Crispin & Molly's daughter Fiona who, apparently, had been in the house the whole time I'd been staying there! We all chatted for a bit and made plans for the next day.

The next day we put our plan in action - we all converged on the cafe where Fiona was working for brunch. It was Fiona's first job out of high school and there was the usual drama that first jobs have. The past few days she'd been assigned to be a dishwasher and not given an apron, resulting in a thorough soaking. Add in being at the bottom of the totem pole and all of that and it made for an amusing entry into the working world (amusing for the outsider, of course - I had my complaints as strawberry picker and turnpike worker and hotel clerk).

After brunch, I did a whole lot of writing and other creative stuff at the house. A lot of relaxing as well - it was my first rest day since Edmonton.

On the 31st Crispin and I drove up to Bellingham. I know I mentioned it earlier in the post, but what a delight it was to hang out with him and hear about his history, the history of the island, and all the stuff that comes with a good conversation. We saw an old sea fort and eventually had lunch with his son Lochlan who is going to school at the University up there (U. of Bellingham? U. of Washington, Bellingham? Something else?). We finally parted ways at the ferry terminal where I was to board the M/V Columbia.

I had a delightful (and productive!) time in Seattle - I hope to get back that way sooner rather than later.

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