The alarm rang at 4:30AM on Monday, May 16, 2011. We arrived at JFK airport at 6:25, and when the Delta baggage checkers asked us where we were going and we said, “Seattle“, I must admit that I felt cool. We got on the plane at 7:45 and I was grateful that even though I had the center seat in coach, there wasn’t one single baby in sight. We landed in Seattle at 10:30AM local time and by noon we were on the road in our rental (red) Toyota, zipping towards ten fantastic days in the Great Pacific Great Northwest.
Before we even checked in at our hotel, we stopped off to see Pike Place Market, which everyone knows from Sleepless in Seattle(here’s Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner walking down Union Street towards the Market):
They sell a lot of fish at the Pike Place Market:
But they also sell Seattle-made arts and crafts and CLOTHES. As soon as I saw this jacket:
I wanted it. It’s handmade in Seattle by Denali’s Originals; it’s made of the material that I call “fleece” (known by local ladies of fashion as the bane of their existence) and it’s got pockets and, since I had not packed anything even slightly cute to cope with the cool, off-and-on damp weather I had to have it.
I wore it to every event in Washington State and Oregon. I was wearing it when I met the great Nancy Pearl at my first book event in Seattle, on Tuesday May 17 2011 at the wonderfully quirky, homey and vast Wide World Books and Maps:
And here’s me at the delightful Cannon Beach Book Shop, hub of literary life on the gorgeous Oregon coast, rocking my spiffy Seattle style:
(At each event I made it a point to show off my Denali’s Original jacket as my wish come true: I’ve always wanted a bathrobe that was chic enough to wear in public. Also, please note my shoes: these are my author shoes which I only wear when I am doing author-things. My writer-self never wears author shoes — I can’t write in heels — but my author-self thinks my writer-self is way, way, waaaaay too slobby to take to my author events. Just so you know.)
When Top Cat and I moseyed out of the Pike Place Market to wander the downtown area, we discovered that Seattle is built on hills. Really, really BIG hills. And because of these hills, and a singularly crotchety sense of urban planning, not one Seattle street is straight, or continuous, or predictable. And sometimes they turn into staircases. Driving in Seattle is almost as aggravating as parking in Seattle (which is quite vexing and, coming from a New Yorker, that’s almost a compliment)…
…but the views are superb.
But wait. I haven’t finished shopping — and I had no intention of shopping on this Great Pacific Great Northwest Tour, but there was a shop on 1st Avenue called Reconstructed Clothing that I had to check out. Reconstructed Clothing (http://www.reconstructedseattle.com/) has a mission: to change the way America dresses itself. And I, for one, having seen how America dresses itself, am all for it. Racks and racks of Seattle-made clothes, all re-habbed from vintage and thrift-shop finds, made into one-of-a-kind fashion collages that make you happy just looking at them. I tried on a sweater and yes, the clothes also make you happy when you wear them. So I bought this:
I got to wear this sweater for the one day in Seattle that it was chilly and overcast (every other day was brilliantly sunny and clear and warm) and the great day in Portland when I made my pilgrimage to The Mother Ship:
Portland, Oregon is the home of Tazo Tea.
You see, besides books, I had tea on my mind during this tour, which is why I scheduled a stop at Teacup in the Queen Anne district in Seattle.
As much as I have re-invented the reading experience with my hybrid-brand of memoir-ish travel picture/essay books, I also want to found a new American Tea Culture. And Seattle, with its long-lived coffeehouse/literary culture, seemed like the perfect place to start the revolution.
So I thank my fellow founding members of the New American Tea Culture Society (b. Wednesday, May 18, 2011) Carol, Stephanie, Susan, and Greg — our manifesto will be appearing shortly in this space and we WILL we WILL we WILL change the way you drink and think TEA.
Wednesday night, immediately after the meeting where we planned to overthrow America’s apathy to tea, was also memorable because:
I met up with Top Cat across Queen Anne Avenue and I got my FIRST glass of WINE. When I am in my right mind, I don’t allow myself to drink even the tiniest bit of alcohol the day before I have to be coherent and presentable in front of people. But as of Wednesday, May 18 I had two days to cut loose in Seattle and friends: it all started right here.
After gulping down some fine Washington State Pinot Gris, Top Cat and I bustled off to the Space Needle to see the sun set.
Mt. Rainier, looking very romantic, put everyone in the mood…
And then it was time for dinner at the famous Elliott Bay-side restaurant Elliott’s to get Top Cat some of the Copper River Salmon that was all the news. The arrival of the Copper River Salmon is Seattle’s version of Nouveau Beaujolais, which is very romantic:
On Thursday we went to see the Seattle Mariners play the California Angels at Safeco Field, baseball’s most expensive stadium (at half a billion dollars). It has a retractable roof,cedar-lined dugouts, and a field of Kentucky bluegrass. Top Cat was really happy: he got to see Ichiro Suzuki play, and he got to haggle with half a dozen ticket scalpers outside the stadium, got all Brooklyn on their asses and scored bargain seats behind home plate.
No, that’s not Ichiro. This is Ichiro:
This was supposed to be a photo of Ichiro in his batter’s stance. But by the time my camera’s shutter was snapped, the pitcher’s fastball had already crossed home plate and I caught Ichiro clobbering it towards second base. The score was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th with two outswhen Mariner Carlos Peguero hit a fly ball into centerfield and Torii Hunter DROPPED it!!! As if we were all one mind, everyone in the stadium jumped up out of our seats in one swell foop and screamed like crazy. It was quite a dazzling finish.
By now Top Cat and I were getting better at navigating the Seattle streets so we only got lost twice and drove a mere fifteen miles out of our way to get to West Seattle for a walk along Alki Beach. It was very scenic (sweeping views across Puget Sound all the way to the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains) but of course I didn’t take any pictures of that. First, because of what I saw when I looked up at the houses that line the edge of this spectacular view:
(I actually tried to get these cats’ attention, by waving at them and yelling, “Hi Kitties! Hi! I see you! Hi!” It was pathetic.)
(cool dog house)
And Secondly, because of what was going on in the water:
These scuba divers were just two of my favorite Seattlites. I also enjoyed:
(at a red light on Wallingford Ave.)
(at University Village, near U Dub[University of Washington] — that little girl in the pink dress with her back to me in the upper left hand corner is being yelled at by her mother for refusing to spit out the water that she slurpped up from one of the fountain’s turtles…I like that kid’s moxie)
On Friday we hit the road out of Seattle, heading towards Whidbey Island and Oregon –
(on the ferry from the mainland to Whidbey)
– which I will tell you all about on Friday.
Don’t be surprised if I try to recruit you to join our New American Tea Culture Society. ARE YOU READY??