Thursday, September 25, 2008

L.M. Goes To Seattle

What you may not know about L.M. is that she grew up in Seattle. What you also may not know is that, in the airline industry, parents fly for free. My parents always told me that if it weren't for me and my sister, they'd be traveling all over the world... and now that I've got this job, the one chance to halfway pay them back for raising a hellion like me, they just sit on the couch and don't wanna go anywhere. Well, this time I cajoled L.M. into going to Seattle for the weekend, and so this is that story.
She flew from New Orleans, and I flew from Salt Lake, and we met at the airport. After we rented a car and checked into a hotel, our first stop was the Space Needle, one of my old favorites.

The elevator takes you up to the top of this thing in maybe forty seconds... that's fast for having to go 600 feet. This is me, being amazed by that fact. Or maybe the view.

That's an observation deck behind me there, and we observed.

That's downtown Seattle. And then there was this goofy building below. We had no idea what it was. But we'll find out by the end of this entry.

There's also a restaurant at the top, but it was booked solid, so we didn't eat there. But after several tries, I got this picture to turn out.

I also managed to catch some pretty cool sunrays off of whatever lake this is next to the Needle. Mom told me, but I forgot.

Back on terra firma, we unfolded a map and plotted a course for lunch. I must have taken a phone call here, because Mom snapped this shot of me. I don't stand on the ground when I don't have to, and it makes people nervous. I don't care... if the floor is ever suddenly electrified, I'll survive, and they won't.

Also found out that that funny building at the base of the Needle is the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum, a place that we were already planning to go. So that was two things I knew where were in Seattle. I really wasn't any help with that map thing.

It's not a day in Seattle if you don't see an umbrella. We walked seven blocks and passed 85 Starbuckses. And eventually we ended up at Pioneer Square, demarcated by this totem pole.

The clever settlers that founded the city named it in honor of Chief Seattle so he would allow all these new white people to hang around, and so there's a lot of Native American decor about. The big deal about Pioneer Square is that it's where the Seattle Underground tour starts.
Thing is, we were early, so it wasn't starting yet. To kill some time, we wandered into a place called Utilikilts. These guys have brought the kilt into modern times. There are denim kilts for the average joe, canvas ones with tool loops for construction workers, leather ones for motorcycle riders, and so on. As I walked in, the nearest employee (who was, of course, wearing a kilt) shouted,"Welcome to Utilikilts... we sell freedom!" I wasn't sure if this was a place I wanted to be in with my mother. But it was too late... a guy in a dress had already grabbed me and was showing me the various unbifurcated wares. "Every kilt we sell holds 8 beers," this guy says. "Which one you wanna try on?" You know I was curious. You know that. So I point at the nearest one, and the guy snaps it open, faces me against the wall, and says, "Drop 'em." That's right. No dressing room. He wanted me to doff my pants in semi-full view of all the patrons. Of course I did it. Never pass up a chance to be pantsless in a room with 30 other people. It's part of the flight attendant creed.

This is me in a kilt. And you know what? The thing was damn comfortable. "Rock your hips side to side like this!" the guy says. "Know what that is? Air conditioning!" Mom was trying unsuccessfully to not giggle. I have a history of wearing strange clothes, and I probably would have bought one of these things right then and there save for one thing: the guy on the business card is a six foot two, 200 pound, dreadlocked monster, and I am a middling height and weight flight attendant with a 'men's contemporary' haircut. I could certainly pull it off, but it would never look normal on me. So, with regret, I threw it back on the rack.
I always post the web addresses of these crazy places I go over there on the right side of the blog, and most of them are pretty bland depictions of said places, but I encourage you to at least check out the FAQ section of Utilikilts. It'll give you a perfect idea of what the people that run the place are like.
By the way, you know what I have on under the kilt? Socks.
After I re-pantsed, we checked out the bookstore next door. Saw this sign. Apparently, everyone's heard of New Orleans.

Finally it was time for the tour to start. It began with a half-hour history lesson about the underground, peppered with digs at Tacoma, Seattle's rival city. The short version is that early town of Seattle was built on mud that had been piled on top of more mud, and so when the town became a city, City Hall decided to build up the downtown area ten feet or so to create a stable base so Seattle wouldn't slide into the ocean. Business owners said hell no, because their first floors would be useless then. City Hall, realizing it only owned the streets, responded by raising only the streets ten feet, building new sidewalks over empty air, and saying, "There. Now your first floor is the basement." This did three things... it kept Seattle on land, ticked off a lot of business owners, and gave birth to the Seattle Underground, which is the maze of tunnels under the sidewalks.
If you know the right doors, and have the right keys, you just walk right down in.

The place was half museum and half catacomb.

Pictures on the walls showed how the city looked in the old days, and there were several places where you could see what you were looking at underground in an above-ground photograph.

The other half of the place was time capsule/trash can of the ages. Since the underground began, people have been using it to get rid of things they didn't want above ground. Lots of old wood. Old doors. Broken and unidentifiable machinery. Several toilets, or in the parlance of the day, crappers. Did you know that the name 'crapper' does not refer to how you interact with this device? It's the last name of the man most often (and incorrectly) cited as the inventor of the toilet, one Thomas Crapper. That right there is one of two things... a really rotten way to go down in history, or a really amazing coincidence.

Here's a teller's cage from an old bank where miners collected wages. You can tell because, well, there's a sign that says 'teller's cage.'

That's where a teller used to go.

At several junctions, there are skylights made out of purple glass. The tour guide mentioned that the glass was originally colorless, but over the years it's become purple due to some complicated chemical process that I'm sure he went into but I wasn't paying attention.

You can see the purple more clearly above ground. And yes I stood on it. I just took my pants off in front of a bunch of strangers... I'm not scared.

The next day we headed back to the Experience Music Project.

It's a really great building. Inside, it's a museum of all things musical. There was a full-size stage where bands could play, and a restaurant. A piece of one of Jimmy Hendrix's guitars is in the museum. L.M. spent a lot of time in the hall devoted to Beatles knock-off bands. What you have to know about my mother is that she knows everything about music from maybe 1952 till sometime in the mid-eighties. Everything. I win every argument about 'who sang that song' by excusing myself under the pretense of going to the john and texting her for the answer. When I was growing up, there was a rivalry between my mother and some other lady across town for radio station Z98's daily trivia question, and Mom always reminded us that the other lady had a book. Mom was never wrong.

There was also a tornado made of guitars. It was a sculpture two stories high, and many of the guitars actually played themselves with the aid of clever mechanical armatures.
You may remember up there when we first discovered what the name of this place was, that there were three more words in the name: Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum. I think you know what half I spent more time in.
It was all here. Deckard's air car from Blade Runner. Original Starfleet uniforms from Star Trek. Forbidden Planet's Robby and Lost In Space's Robot having an intellectual conversation. Spacemen. Monsters. Aliens. Mom knew what most of them were, but for different reasons; I had grown up with these things, and she had watched me grow up watching these things over and over again. If my mother is slightly insane, it's my fault.
Some standouts:

R2 always cheers me up, no matter what. You know you're not going to lose if he's around.

And speaking of losing, you know you will if this thing is around. The T-800 from The Terminator is still the baddest-ass piece of hardware ever invented, now or in the year 2029. Let's all remember Stan Winston, who created this guy, the full-size dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and a host of other monsters... he died earlier this year.
In what is only a half-non-sequitur, I watched The Terminator in Spanish a few days after I got back from this trip. I recommend doing this, even if you don't speak Spanish. Hilarious. Words on the screen in English are read out loud in Spanish, and so at the main title, the narrator says, "EL EXTERMINADOR!" Go watch this right now.
Last on the agenda was Ivar's Salmon House. This is a place that I think is on that same lake that the Space Needle is next to, and it's home to the best salmon I've ever eaten ever. No trip to Seattle is really complete without going here.
Seattle is a really great place, despite the constant drizzle and all the Starbucks. Go if you have a chance. And bring your mom.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a lot of water in/around Seattle, so it's kinda hard to keep them organized. The picture with the lights is Elliott Bay, which is the part of Puget Sound downtown Seattle is built around. (That would be a ferry heading out to the San Juan Islands in that picture.) The lake by the Needle and Ivar's is Lake Union. NEXT TIME we'll have to check out the Fremont Troll and the J.P. Patches/Gertrude statue "Late For The Interurban." Great trip - LM

8:33 AM  
Blogger Aviatrix said...

You look great in that kilt. I think you should lobby for kilts as a uniform choice at your airline.

11:35 AM  
Blogger AkuTyger said...

You're mom looks just like I imagined her to look.

My sister's (not real, but of the heart) husband is a Utilikilt guy. He only wears kilts now, like for the last 5 years or so. And he is one of those big scary looking guys with the earing and tattoos. Except his tattoos are of "Where the Wild Things are" and he works at a library.

4:37 PM  
Anonymous denise in NOLA said...

Okay. I have to admit it, I own an electric blue (much like my current hair color) corduroy Utilikilt. Yes, I'm a girl but they DO make lady kilts. Ha. Also, you should watch "The High Life" with Alan Cumming. It's F.A.-centric and FUNNY!!! (I got my copy of the dvd signed by him when he was here for Filmfest last year--He was suprised an American even knew what it was.)

And didn't your mom have curly hair? Of course, 5th grade was a loooooong time ago....

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Denise, my curly hair was optional, just like your electric blue hair. It was a phase.
Aku, thanks--I think!
LM

7:59 AM  
Blogger Erin at Ruba said...

Hi! I’m the Community Manager of Ruba.com. We’re building a website to highlight some of the most interesting places travelers around the world have discovered. We’ve read hundreds of blogs about Seattle, and we think that this post is awesome! We’d love to highlight excerpts from blogs like yours (assuming it’s OK with you of course) and to discuss other ways of tapping into your expertise if you are interested. I’m at erin@ruba.com.
Thanks! :)

1:43 PM  

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