Seattle Wind-up

So, now that I am back home in Sydney, I have a confession about my time in Seattle: I never went up the Space Needle. And we stayed right near it. Less than a 7-minute walk from it. In fact, it was my beacon when I navigated Seattle. I just headed towards it, because I knew I lived pretty much right underneath. But I never went up. A bit of a visitor’s faux pas, I know, but I do tend to get more from less expected adventures.

To be fair, I was told – by everyone – not to bother if it was raining. And, well, it rained most of the time I was there. The sun did come out my last full day in Seattle, and Ben and I were walking right past the Space Needle at the time, but by then I was kind of over it. Next time. Maybe.

Another confession – just a little one. I nearly hated Seattle. Well, I did hate it, for about 30 minutes on my third day there. I was meeting Ben at his office at the end of day. It was a one mile walk, so about 15-20 minutes. We were going out to dinner from there, so I was dressed nicely, and had bothered with my hair and make-up. As it does in Seattle – at least half of the time – it was drizzling when I left the apartment. No problem. I had my new compact umbrella. After I put up the umbrella, it really started to rain. I pushed on, head down, umbrella shielding me from the incoming weather front.

I was about half way to Ben’s office, when I turned a corner and a huge gust of wind lifted my hat from my head and blew it into traffic. My muffled cry of, “No!!!” was drowned out by the wind and the traffic, just as a car ran over my hat. My new, very cute, ‘I got two compliments on this hat today’ hat. Bugger! Just as I had resigned myself that my hat was gone forever, another gust of wind turned my umbrella inside out, then scooped it up, and blew it into traffic. It was hit by a truck. I did not scream, “No!”, rather various swears for which I deserved to have my mouth washed out. Bugger! At this point I had no protection from the wind and rain, and was quickly saturating.

I ducked into the nearest building, where a very nice woman showed me the appropriate level of sympathy about my hat and umbrella that had been murdered by the wind and the traffic, and about how it was summer in Sydney and NOT freezing cold and miserable, and about how I was wet through and was supposed to go for dinner. I knew I sounded like lunatic, but perhaps she just thought, “Oh, she’s an O-ssie.” Americans do tend to find us endearingly quirky.

I called a cab. If I waited for it, it would arrive in 40 minutes. I called Ben. He got a cab in minutes and rescued me. He too showed me the appropriate sympathy for someone having endured such trauma. His understanding – and the understanding of the nice woman in the warm building – calmed me. I started to dry out in the warmth of the cab, and by the time we got to where we were going, the storm had subsided. As we walked towards the restaurant, I decided that my argument with Seattle should be put behind me, and we should make up. I wanted to give this city another chance for me to love it, and in the end I did.

Cool stuff I did do in Seattle:

  • Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour from Pioneer Square. So, the short story is that Seattle was once at sea level – or slightly below – which meant the city was flooded twice a day when the tide came in. The founding father’s put into action a plan to raise the city, a feat they accomplished in only 30 years! Much of the original city still exists – at basement level – under the newer city, and for only $14 guides will take you to the underground world of Seattle. These guides not only possess the keys to the city, they know lots of brilliant stories and historical stuff, so it is an interesting way to spend two hours.

  • The Seattle Children’s Theatre. By day I am an unassuming Drama teacher, so discovering the Charlotte Martin Theatre at the Seattle Centre (a collection of arts buildings, museums and performance arenas surrounding the Space Needle) was an unexpected treat. This is where the Seattle Children’s Theatre is based. I emailed them, and one kind lady let me come and meet her. She talked me through the work they do, showed me around the facilities – “Wow!” – and invited me to watch their current production, The Never-ending Story. The organisation produces high-quality children’s theatre with professional adult actors, as well as running a diverse learning program for children ages 3 to 18. Perhaps one day they will be in desperate need for an Aussie girl with vast experience and copious enthusiasm.

  • Experience Music Project. Also at the Seattle Centre is this an incredibly cool music museum. Frank O. Gehry designed the building, which is a futuristic exploration of form and colour. It reminded me of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. And with good reason: Gehry designed that too. Inside is a mini concert hall and on the day we visited an 8-piece Jazz band was playing – part of the 2008 Jazz Festival. The strains of their music filled the giant structure and we could hear them playing intermittently throughout our visit.
    The centrepiece of the museum is a 30-foot tall sculpture made entirely of guitars – all types of guitars – forming a giant funnel – like a musical tornado sweeping through the lobby. That is remarkable enough, until you realise that some of the guitars are actually playing. If you put on the headphones at the base of the sculpture, you can hear the music being created by automated guitars suspended above your head. Other exhibits include a rock memorabilia journey through Seattle’s modern music history. I was thrown back to university days, and many a night groaning along with Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain, but the roots of Seattle’s music scene are in underground jazz from early in the 20th century, much of it actually taking place in Seattle’s Underground labyrinth. My experience of Seattle’s history came full circle.

  • Uptown Espresso. I finally found a place that made brilliant coffee. On my last day in Seattle, Ben and I went in search of pancakes. Rather, we wanted a big cooked breakfast, with no thoughts given to calories or healthy eating. We did a net search, which wasn’t particularly helpful, and I was starting to get grumpy for lack of food. We decided to just head out into our ‘hood, Queen Anne. After some fruitless meandering, we happened upon an old-style diner, called Mecca Cafe. It smelled like bacon and maple syrup, so we made our way in, our eyes adjusting to the darkened room. We took a booth with red vinyl seats, and pondered the extensive menu. Exactly what we were looking for and we had nearly missed it.
    When the waitress came, with a pot of brewed coffee, and I asked about espresso, she directed me across the street, saying we could bring the coffees in to have with our breakfast. She then poured Ben a cup of diner coffee. He could have stood his spoon up in it. I offered to make the dash across the street to Uptown Espresso. I had walked past it a few times on my way back from the grocery store, each time promising myself to give it a shot when I didn’t have hands full of shopping bags. I had never made it back, until this moment. On entry, the warm and inviting smell of smooth coffee hit me like a physical force. I ordered, my latte no foam, and a soy latte for Ben. I watched the barrista make it with care and skill. I was almost in tears. I ran back across the street with both in hand, waiting to share my first taste with Ben. “I think we’re going to love this,” I said as I sat. We both tasted, we both smiled, and Ben said, “Oh yeah.” We drank in silence. The food arrived – waffles, pancakes, eggs, bacon. It was all great. We ate with gusto. Perfect. We then spent the rest of the day in the city, walking, shopping, exploring and burning off breakfast.

I also never went to the flagship Starbucks store, but I did walk past it several times, and I did stop to take a picture. Next time. Maybe.

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