Friday, Sep 3rd, 2004
We headed off for LAX, getting a helpful lift from Tanya at work. We had to walk from terminal to terminal because we needed to go to the airline that operated our flight, rather than the one that sold us th eticket. No biggie.
We got on the place and found ourselves surrounded by musicians. Closest to us was a scruffy Australian lad with a nasty cold. A serious snuffling, hacking, sneezing, coughing, virus-shedding cold. Rebecca shrank away from him and into my seat as much as possible. His even scruffier, but healthy, mates were nearby discussing their gig in Seattle.
On the flight, we flew north along California and over Oregon, where we got excellent views of Mount Hood (which I say allows us to call this the All the Western States Tour as opposed to the All the Western States Except Oregon Tour). Even better than Mount Hood is Mount Rainier, which is unbelievably huge (incidentally, Rainier is one of two words I can think of that are pronounced differently when they're capitalized -- the other being 'polish'). Rainier tends to loom over the horizon throughout Seattle, though it's many miles away. I didn't realize that it is the second tallest mountain in the lower states, not much shorter than California's Mt. Whitney.
When we got to Seattle and saw the luggage being unloaded, I saw the sick musician's equipment coming off the plane, all bearing large stickers reading JET. It seems strange to say that we sat next to Jet on a jet, but that's the facts.
We picked up our luggage and Emily and Obaid found us at the baggage claim. I still don't have a good idea of the non-Euclidean geometry of Seattle and its environs. Their house in Port Orchard is about ten miles away from Seattle as the crow flies, but intervening waterways make it inconvenient to get there, turning it into a drive of many dozens of miles. One of the bonuses was that I got a chance to go over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka Galloping Gertie, beloved of physicists teaching people about resonance). We stopped for lunch at a pretty good place, where I had some chicken yakisoba and, on the waiter's recommendation, a pint of Mac and Jack's African Amber Ale, which was quite tasty. Sadly, I believe it's only available as draft beer in the Northwest. No bottles.
Afterwards, we got to Em & Obie's place, getting the grand tour of the inside and out. They've done an amazing amount of work on the house and garden, and there's still plenty more that they desire to do. This, I guess, is what we have to look forward to as homeowners. Later, we walked across their neighbor's land to a gazebo with a magnificent view of the waterway and Vashon Island. The whole area, of course, looks like a forest.
We also met Sam, their dog, who's a friendly, chunky girl. And Jake the cat (who lived with us for a year long long ago) who's now 20 years old and still doing remarkably well for an old gentleman. His fur is whiter and he's a bit slower, but it was gratifying to see that he remembered us and quickly crawled into my lap and sacked out. (I can at least pretend he remembered me – he's so friendly that he does this with everyone.)
Saturday, Sept. 4th
We started by going off to a local forested area open to the public – Em's usual place to take Sam for her major walk of the day. Soon we were deep in the forest – quiet, mossy, inhabited by squirrels and the occasional strange fungus. At one point, a squirrel was up on a tree barking for reasons best known to himself. Then with a faint fluttery sound, a grey owl swooped near and settled on a branch to watch the squirrel. We called Sam away and continued the walk, wondering if the owl would succeed in getting some squirrel for breakfast.
When we got back, Obie provided a Pakistani-style breakfast for us. It was great stuff. Little beef/lentil patties, flatbread thingies and jalapeno-scrambled eggs.
The off to Seattle. Rather than drive around the water, this time we went over it, by ferry. Saw a few sights from the car and then found some parking down near the Experience Music Project.
EMP was filled with plenty of neat stuff, but I don't think it did a very good job at presenting a coherent story. Kingsmen and the Raiders, Jimi and Janis, MetalChurch and Nirvana. It's all there, but jumbled about. A highlight is a great guitar museum following the development from acoustic and Hawaiian guitars to early electric instruments like the Rickenbacker Frying Pan to the Strat to the V to a futuristic design with infrared laser pickups.
In a more experiential part of EMP, I got to play drums, keyboard, do some turntable scratching, do some mixing and other production stuff at little stations that showed the different steps in the process. Fun stuff, but still missing something.
Ate lunch there, where they had very good food for 'museum food'. And then to the neighboring Science Fiction Museum. Again, Paul Allen has assembled a lot of great stuff, and it's nicely displayed, but the faintly addressed themes fail to add much to the assemblage of knick-knacks.
From Kirk's chair to the Queen Alien to 'the Robot', there was all sorts of cool stuff there. I enjoyed wandering through and the feeling of recognition as I saw this and that. I was pleased to see many of the books and authors represented among all of the film and TV memorabilia. On a timeline of Science Fiction, HPL's ugly mug graced the very top of the 20's-30's period.
We gave the Space Needle a miss, though it's a cool thing to look at, and headed for some swampy land near the Arboretum. There's a narrow path with bridges that leads through the area and there were nice views of lilypads in the foreground (but no turtles, as we had been promised) and boats and the city in the background. Back to the parking lot, where Rebecca posed Tank Girl-style on a retired battleship deckgun that was set up there to defend against Canadians. Speaking of Canadians, maps of Washington showed us cities to the north with majestic names like Chilliwack and Abbotsford and Vancouver. For me, these places had always seemed as remote and mythical as Katmandu or Fresno, but now the stomping grounds of The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets were just a short drive away. Lest madness overtake us, we wisely chose to shun those northern cities.
From there, we went to a Pakistani restaurant that Obaid frequents and picked up some great takeout food, which filled the car with savory smells during the ferry trip back. The meal was wonderful, even if we were forced to watch the recent Starsky and Hutch movie.
Sunday, Sept. 5th
Next morning, Emily and I took Sam for a walk in the woods. We went and saw a mossy VW bus that somehow made its way deep into the forest. Seriously, there's not enough space for it to drive between the trees to get there. It must have been there for 20+ years and all the trees have grown up around it. The moss was inches thick on the roof.
We all gathered together again and headed for Puyallup to pick up Em & Becca's mom, Judith, who moved to Washington recently. After collecting her, we went to Mount Rainier National Park. Judith got a Golden Age Passport, which is an unbelievable smokin' hot deal. For $10, you get LIFETIME free entrance to all National Parks and Monuments. Even better, everyone in the car with someone with the pass gets in free. It paid for itself already, since there's a $10 entrance fee for Mt. Rainier. Yellowstone would have been $20, but now it'll be free!
Paradoxically, in the park, it's hard to actually get a good view of the mountain, because the craggy foothills occlude it. Nevertheless, there was lots of fine scenery. I picked out a hike to do up to Comet Falls. The trail follows the stream (which is itself steep and practically a waterfall most of the way) far up into the hills. Far, far up into the hills. Far, far, far up the rocky, muddy mountain. It was quite an exhausting trip, and we didn't quite make it all the way, but the view of the falls that we got was quite nice, and it was fun to cross the wooden log bridge that passes over the stream. Not a logs bridge, but a log bridge, if you get my meaning. Also of note were the pikas, which are adorable little palm-sized lagomorphs that live in the rocks and occasionally uttered chirpy barks at us.
We spent 3 hours on the mountain, covering a measly 3.5 miles or so. Back down, we made our way to picnic grounds at Paradise, where we had a great and very welcome lunch. The chipmunks, grey jays and the lovely black-crested Steller's jays all showed a certain interest in our food, and it was neat to have nature come up close to visit, even if it was coming to eat a sour cream and chive potato chip.
A little more sight-seeing from the car and then we turned back home, where Obie BBQ'ed up some excellent marinaded chicken.
Monday, Sept. 6th
Em & Obie took us into Seattle again for a bit more sightseeing. We went to Pike Place Market and wandered its shops and gave ear to the street performers. Unfortunately, the Fish Market was closed for Labor Day. You have to watch for low flying fish there, as the workers toss them about with gay abandon. Or so we're told.
After that, we went to Fremont, where we saw the troll bridge. That's not a typo. Fremont is a pretty funky area. We went to lunch at the B&O Espresso, where we had the least pleasant meal of the trip. They seated us in the window, and then came and moved us, because they had a tea party that needed that table. Also, no one warned us that they were on their Sunday menu for the holiday. Finally, I found the food to be adequate to good, while most everyone else was really dissatisfied. Although I didn't find its taste to be bad, my innards had an even lower opinion and an hour later I was hunting down a WC near the locks at Ballard. The locks are certainly marvellous engineering feats, but they are not exactly gripping as entertainment.
Back in Port Orchard, Obaid selflessly rounded up some steaks and we had steak, corn on the cob and taters, precious. All good stuff, and Obie had even picked up some large bottles of Guinness for us. After dinner, we played a couple hands of Fluxx (I won the first, and Obie the second) before turning in, saying our goodbyes to Obaid, since he sets out early early for work in the morning, because of the ferry & other nasty Seattle traffic.
Tuesday, Sept. 7th
Woke up and said more goodbyes to Jake, Sam and even the vicious parrot. While Em walked the dog, I managed to get him to echo my whistles. It's piercing and shrill, but it's better than his usual malevolent gurgle. Then Em drove us to pick up Judith, and from there she dropped us off at SeaTac, where we got our trusty steed, a silver-green Ford Taurus, which was our faithful companion for the next week.