West Coast Summer 2003: Part I 

Seattle: Founded in 1850 by a group of expatriate New Yorkers, among others. Little of this mattered to me on the excruciating plane ride to the west coast, where I battled the twin demons of sleep deprivation and hangover. Sean picked me up and took me to his home:

I kept forgetting to bring my camera with me so I don't have a lot of narrative illustration for the trip. I met Sean's lovely girlfriend Samantha, and we watched Sean in a bike race in Redmond. This utterly exhausted me and it was not until nightfall that I felt awake enough to go to the local sports bar to watch the Tour de France and get drunk. I managed to get through the whole week without drinking whiskey, mostly because every bar in town served at least one type of Hefe Weissen, which is always a good choice in warm weather.

Over the next couple of days I learned the mantra of the inert Seattlite: coffee, beer, coffee, beer. I couldn't even tell you if there were any other beverages available. I met up with Jefe and his gal Peggy, who are newcomers to the west coast. But already they're taking the city by the throat and making it beg for them to please stop singing. For one minute. Please. Jefe's got a play about cannibalism that will be produced in the next few months and Peggy's fighting off the callbacks. I get the impression these guys will not take no for an answer. And yet, they don't want to live in New York. They so crazy:

I spent a lot of time at an Internet cafe, my first such experience somehow. Online Coffee, despite the utilitarian name, was a lovely little place that offered 30 minutes of free Internet access with a coffee purchase. Here I caught up on my e-mail and blog-related obsessions. Then I would retire to the outdoor area to, get this, smoke in a public establishment. No wonder that band named itself 'Nirvana.' On the patio of the coffee house there was a painting I found particularly resonant:

There's a close-up of the standard; how empowering.

There are many crows in Seattle, but I don't have any pictures. You'll have to take my word for it. Here I am, swatting at them:

This was in Sean's yard. His neighborhood deli has more exotic gourmet foodstuffs than Garden of Eden. Apparently all convenience stores are like this in Seattle.

Jim took me out for a day on the town with Roman, who eyed me suspiciously when I made light of his hat:

We checked out the tide pools on Puget Sound, then we headed to Ballard Locks, where they raise and lower the water levels to move rich people's boats around (also I understand there is some sort of practical element involved as well). This was also home to the famed Fish Ladder, a stepped device to allow salmon to swim upstream:

You'll have to imagine the tank teeming with salmon flying out of the water. We only saw one with the gumption to try. I still say that witnessing drawbridges in action was one of the highlights of my trip. I know it's a commonplace annoyance for Seattlites, but oh, the wonder of it all!

Jim took me to his plot at the community garden, where his huge plants made a mockery of the few sorry vegetables I have struggling to survive in the debris-laden soil of my backyard:

Again, I forgot my camera on most of my outings. Here's some other stuff I did: I went to some Ethiopian and Afghani restaurants, drank more coffee than somebody without immediate access to a bathroom should, got lost in an arboretum, bought Phoebe Gloeckner's disturbing Diary of a Teenage Girl, I learned more about the Tour de France and the mating habits of sockeye salmon than I ever dreamed possible, and spent way too much time at Sonic Boom Records, possibly the greatest record store of all time, if only because every CD they carry is matched by the same record on 12" vinyl. Nobody does that anymore.

And of course, there was invaluable chill-out time spent at Sean's bachelor pad (shared with an Irish Elvis impersonator, I shit you not). Here we ate sockeye and read Maxim and drank even more coffee. You'd think these people would be as uptight as New Yorkers with all this java, but they were laid back to an almost Zen level.

My last day in Seattle: I ran into a friend (el Jefe) while wandering around, I finally saw those mountains usually obscured by haze, I of course drank lotsa joe, I hung out in a gay bar and listened to "Summer Loving" from the Grease soundtrack, and I saw some live Seattle rock at Chop Suey. I remember Lure of the Animal (which Sean rightly pointed out as a Seinfeld reference), and Lloyd's Rocket, which Sean also pointed out as a gas station reference. I got drunk on Hefe Weissen and still got enough sleep to bear the trip to California.

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Next: My harrowing trip to California, featuring the B52s! Well, sort of.



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