Less worries than a sleeping Mayank

Trip Start Aug 25, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Sunday, September 8, 2013


"Oh, look at you… reading The Stranger. On a dreary day. Rain pouring down outside. How Seattle." With these passing words from a local Seattleite, our adventures in Seattle began. Well, technically they began with a 4am start, Laura almost not getting through US immigration (which you do on the Canadian side at Vancouver airport), a very scary but thankfully short propeller plane ride, and a sketchy bus trip through downtown Seattle to hipster Fremont (“The Centre of the Universe”). I like to skip over those parts. Skip forward to where I'm enjoying a bowl of steaming hot local mussels and clams washed down with wine from a nearby vineyard. Reading The Stranger. Rain pouring down outside. Ahhhh… That’s better.

About that rain. It’s part of the reason Seattle gets its main nickname – “The Emerald City”, for the lush forests surrounding it. And I guess more obviously one of its other nicknames – “Rain City”. An unrelated nickname is “Jet City” due to the presence of Boeing, and Seattle is also known as the home of grunge – being home to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Mudhoney. If rap/hip hop is more your scene, Sir Mix-a-lot and Macklemore are both Seattleites.

It’s grunge music that guides a lot of our activities on our first three days, however, and we are lucky enough to get to kick around town exploring with a group of buddies!

Laura’s friends Jarrod and Maz (who is the daughter of one of my colleagues – small world!) have been living in Canada for the past year and a bit, and are travelling the States en route home to Australia. We catch up with this lovely couple, along with another friend Veg, at the Alibi Room, a cool little bar situated next to Seattle’s famous gum wall.

After a round of drinks and precariously balanced pizzas (on old tomato tins!) we head over to The Crocodile, “Seattle’s best live music venue”.The music tonight isn’t reaaaaaaaally my cup of tea (a local rap contest) but the bar itself is much beloved by music fans for its rich history, having hosted countless incredible bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and R.E.M. as well as the likes of the Beastie Boys, Ben Harper, Alabama Shakes, the Ting Tings, Bombay Bicycle club and countless others. It’s dark, dingy, a neat place to hang out awhile and set us up for the next couple days of exploring.

The following morning, the next stop on our grunge tour is the EMP museum. It’s currently home to an extensive Nirvana exhibition – taking you through the band’s entire history right up to the time of Kurt Cobain’s untimely death in 1994. The museum is a pretty similar set up to Cleveland’s 'Rock and Roll hall of fame’ and even has a couple of very similar exhibits, but is definitely worth an afternoon of wandering.

We then decide to walk up the biggest hill in Seattle (whew!) for amazing views before heading to dinner in Fremont at Revel, where I have the best meal I ever eated. For reals. Korean inspired BBQ dishes. A fire pit. One chef preparing meat on the BBQ outside, great patio seating, and ‘lunch-box inspired’ desserts which are incredible (we try the fluffernutter cake that looks like a fluffernutter sandwich and chocolate mousse covered in sea salt crisps).

We don’t recommend the cocktails at Backdoor at Roxy’s unless you feel like drinking an entire glass of straight alcohol… but the High Dive bar is a great dive bar with live music, where we discover the Italian Kurt Cobain! An Italian kid named Julian gets on stage, starts rocking out and we’re all in awe. So much in awe I fail to count the drinks any longer and so the next morning’s early start is a rude shock!

A breakfast of chicken fried steak and eggs at Patty’s Egg Nest (everything comes with three eggs!) fixes me up enough for an early morning excursion to the Museum of Flight and the Boeing factory at Everett, Washington. Some of you may know I have developed a rather nasty fear of flying of late. This wasn’t helped by the very bumpy flight we had from Vancouver to Seattle, and I’m not sure that it was helped by a visit to the Boeing factory!

A cross-section of a plane (which I can touch to feel how much a feat of engineering (READ: FLIMSY) it is) shows me exactly what’s between me and the open air (Not a lot. In fact it looks and feels a lot like two empty tin cans sandwiching a dirty old mattress).

A flight map shows me millions of white dots over the USA (all the planes in the air RIGHT NOW. HOW DO THEY NOT COLLIDE?)

Our cheery guide rattles off countless facts about Boeing. The heaviest loads planes carry are often flowers (water and container weight). A small basic passenger plane with no furnishings costs around $350 million dollars to buy. They are bumping up the production of x model planes from x per month to x per month. I blocked that last part for each model from my memory. SLOW DOWN. JUST DO IT PROPERLY. NOT QUICKLY. OK!?!?

The Boeing factory at Everett is not amazingly tall, but very large (well, planes fit inside. And allegedly so would some incredible number of Eiffel Towers. And football fields). It’s actually the largest building in the world by capacity. Due to the pressure and size of the space, clouds used to form INSIDE the building and it would rain inside. It’s raining today (surprise!) but only outside so I think they’ve got that under control now. The building is like its own city. Employees can choose from a multitude of dining options as well as do things like post a letter, visit a doctor, get a massage or rent a DVD at work. NO. STOP. CONCENTRATE ON BUILDING THE PLANES. IT’S IMPORTANT.

Fears definitely not abated, and leaving the museum and our slight non-grunge detour behind, it’s time to get back on the grunge trail. We detour through a couple of cool neighbourhoods and get some lunch, but we’re ultimately headed to Kurt Cobain’s house out in the Seattle burbs. This house, which Cobain once shared with Courtney Love, and the site of his 1994 death, is pretty hard to get to without a car. You also can’t actually visit the house itself, it’s owned by a family who live in it now. Fans will stop by and sit awhile on the bench in the clearing next door, however, and it’s carved with tributes to Cobain and Nirvana.

We’re sans-Laura that night so Jarrod, Maz and Veg are kind enough to let me tag along to a seafood dinner (you gotta take advantage of being sans-vegetarian!) on their last night in Seattle. The next day I also get to bust out on my own, and I’m kinda relishing it. I get to do all the touristy things I haven’t done yet like take a duck tour, eat chowdah from sourdough down on the wharf, see the house from Sleepless in Seattle and visit Chihuly garden and glass (I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves on that last one).

I also get to build up my ‘fun fact’ bank. Did you know that after the great Seattle fires they built their streets up about two stories higher than the original ones? And that if you want to, you can tour the old streets of Seattle, two stories underneath the people and cars above you? Creepy. They also rebuilt the buildings with stone and brick mostly, which is why Seattle has one of the largest collections of Romanesque-revival architecture today.

I find my Laura again by evening, though. And it’s time to go to the SOUNDERS MLS GAME!! We are headed off with Laura’s friend Tim and his friends Mayank, Rich and Sarah (who is from South Carolina and sounds accordingly delicious). We managed to catch a Whitecaps FC game before we left Vancouver, but in true American style this is somehow BIGGER! There’s confetti! There’s FIRE! (I’m not kidding. Every time the Sounders score, fire shoots up from the goalposts.) There are FIREWORKS. There’s a band! We all dance outside at the end of the game, and stroll the streets yelling “SEAAAAAAAAAAAATTTLLLLE.” “SOUUUUUNNNNDEEERRRRRRRRRRRSSS.”

At some point in the evening we get kicked out of a restaurant for too much giggling. I mean COME ON. It’s MAYANK. A genius but a stirrer. I challenge you not to giggle when faced with an earnest look, a clasped hand and “Oh, Erica… since it’s your birthday, let us ride down a mountain on a queen sized bed attached to skis while making sweet sweet love.” PS it’s not my birthday.

We eventually end up at Rich and Sarah’s for pizza and sweet treats from Spot on Foods, a dessert company owned by their entrepreneurial friend and next-door neighbour Jamie. I don’t know how Mayank keeps in character the whole night but he somehow does – ranting, raving and having us in stitches well into the morning. Until... Suddenly… he lies flat on his back. In the middle of the floor. Clasps his hands to his chest. Sighs. Smiles. And falls fast asleep. Not even Rich kicking him wakes him or interrupts the quiet waves of snoring.

So much stillness after so much energy. It’s like that second the spa jets stop in a bath. Frenetic fizzing suddenly dissolving into still, calm waters.

He looks so peaceful. Not a worry in the world.

It’s that peacefulness that inspires a toast between Laura and I later in our trip… a sentiment that I wish for all of you too…

“May you have even less worries than a sleeping Mayank, my friends.”

Your B. xx
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