I'd only been to Seattle one other time, back in May of 2004. Oddly, that visit was on the back side of my other cross country adventure. The time my buddies and I drove from Cincinnati to Seattle along I-90. We basically arrived into Seattle the evening before we flew home, and I barely got a chance to see the city at all. It was one of my biggest regrets of that trip that I didn't plan another day or two in the Emerald City.
When the T.M. and I originally planned the Great Piano Adventure, we knew we were planning to fly to Seattle and go from there, but we'd originally planned to fly in, land, and immediately get the truck and head out. We adjusted the plan to hedge against the perils of stand-by travel, and decided to make a first attempt the day before, and if we made it we'd have a whole, glorious day, in Seattle.
The T.M. can verify that the hour of waiting prior to us getting on the flight was easily the crankiest I was for the entire trip. I was fucking edgy, and I totally admit it.
We did end up making it on the flight with minimal suspense, and while I can't sleep in anything moving, the T.M. PTFO (Passed the fuck out) and basically woke up as we started our descent into the Seattle area.
Seattle is effing awesome.
We stayed in the Queen Anne district at a place called The Mediterranean Inn (That picture in the header was taken on the roof). The Inn is walking distance from the Seattle Center, which is home to the iconic Space Needle.
We'd really wanted to check out the Needle and Pike Place Market. I mean... we ARE tourists, after all. ( As evidenced by our still AND video cameras). So we walked to the Space Needle and hitched the very inexpensive monorail to downtown Seattle, only a 5 minute walk to the market. You know the market? That place that you see in every Seattle establishing shot in every movie set in Seattle? No? Here's a picture:
OOooooh. Now you remember.
The place is pretty amazing. Most people think of that crazy fish throwing shit, and while that's definitely happening, it almost gets lost in the absolute madness that is the market as a whole. There were shops of all kinds. Fruits, flowers, swag, products, jewelry, and pretty much everything else. Oh.. and it's set directly on the absolutely beautiful Puget Sound:
So yeah... I mean, I could go on about the Market, or the Sound, or the awesome dinner we had with the T.M.'s work friend, Dan (cool based on name alone, right?). We ate at a place down on the piers called Ivar's, and on top of having pretty solid seafood (especially the chowder), it also had this view: Yeah.. I could go on and on about all of that, but what I loved most about Seattle, and what I really want to talk about was the life. The people. That place is just incredibly alive. We had some incredible luck with the weather, and it was something like 75 degrees and sunny the whole day we were there, so we spent a good amount of time just hanging out on this little park behind the market. More of a grassy knoll (minus the Cuban assassins) than a park, we sat in the grass, surrounded by hundreds of people from all facets of life.
There was the group of Emo-Hippie kids right in front of us, with their pot of community noodles (or rice or lentils or whatever it was) that they were giving away for free, as they rollicked in the grass in their usual self-aware, yet uninhibited way (is that possible?).
There was the strangely compelling street magician, who juggled chainsaws and knives and mocked the ever-growing crowd in a very jovial, good natured way. He HAD those people. And he was funny!
There was the goth lady (who had just before been posing for pictures with all manner of people from foreign lands at her leather jewelry booth) and her short-shorts, Punk-Tuck haircutted boyfriend.
I realized, sitting there, that we were witnessing more diversity in a single square block than we typically see in 2 months in Cincinnati. I'm filled with Cincy pride, but when it comes to non-conforming life-styles and ethnic diversity, Seattle has us in spades. I felt unusually uncool, but also at home there. Like... while I'm a big nerd, I'm confident I'd have a whole cadre of other big nerds to hang out with on the green, and make a pot of something or other, and pass it out to strangers. It's like a dream world where EVERYONE fits in. It's amazing.
It was hard to top this revelatory experience the rest of the day, but as we walked back to the hotel from the monorail, we decided that the line to the observation deck of the Space Needle was short enough to justify checking it out.
I've been scared of heights my whole life, and I've worked on conquering this fear one observation deck and roller coaster at a time. It's a slow process.
The Seattle Space Needle was worth the trial in terror. It was absolutely stunning at the top. The night time view of Seattle and the surrounding area was beautiful: The heights weren't really even that scary. I felt far more secure in the outdoor observation deck there than I did at the CN Tower in Toronto. Of course, I'm a lot older and less of a wuss. I didn't even mind the swaying (scroll down half-way or so). The T.M. didn't believe me that the thing swayed, but it definitely does, and maybe it seems unlikely that I could feel it, but I COULD, DAMNIT!
We even saw an old man at the top who was angrily cussing at no one in particular. Like.. violently, beligerently, body-jerkily cussing. We wondered for a while what prompted this anger, and how in the world they let him enter an elevator with sane people. I do not have a picture.
[EDIT: I was reminded by my buddy Dave (one of the travelers on the 2004 trip) that we also encountered an angry, cussing man the last time we were in Seattle. He was a small, Southeast Asian man on a bicycle, and he was standing in traffic cussing at cars as they went by. I can't put it any better than Dave did, so: "Seattle: a utopia where everyone fits in... and it really fucking irritates a couple people." ]
It was a truly wonderful day in a wonderful city, and we barely saw any of it still. It's on my list of places to visit again soon.
I can honestly say that while I've always found people cool. Cars cool. Movies cool. I've never before found a whole city cool. After spending the bulk of a day in Seattle, I can say definitively that Seattle is the Arthur Fonzarelli of cities. It's fucking cool to the core. Coming Up: Day 2 (Seattle to Longview)