Day 22: Seattle
Oh what’s this – another day filled to the brim with new and exciting things to do? Righty then, best I finish my granola and yoghurt, wash it down with my coffee and get on with it.
Scenic Flight on a Seaplane
Taking a Seattle seaplane tour is a quintessential Northwest experience – apparently. So I’m here at Kenmore Air on Lake Union to experience the “unique thrill of flying off the water and soaring over one of the most beautiful parts of the world”.
Boarding the small seaplane, every seat is a window seat. We snap on our belts and put on our headphones to listen to the narrated flight. We skim across the water for a while, before taking off. It’s a lot smoother than I thought and soon we are flying over Lake Union’s famous houseboat communities, the beautiful University of Washington (U-Dub as the locals call it) campus, lakeside and seaside estates, Seattle’s professional sports stadiums and downtown skyline.
We also fly over the gasworks park…
It’s an amazing view from the plane and you can see a lot. It’s unfortunate that it’s not the clearest day so you can’t see Mt Rainier. But I’ll be going there tomorrow anyway, so it doesn’t worry me in the slightest. Interesting fact – there is one boat for every five peeps in Seattle!
Touching back down onto the water, the ride is over and another first accomplished – ride in a seaplane – tick!
I hadn’t really planned to do any ‘shopping’ in Seattle, but when I drove through on my way from the airport and saw Nordstroms and the shopping strip around 5th Avenue, I decided I could put away an hour to drop by and have a look around. I was coming down the escalators on my way out of the department store, when I heard a voice start singing. “I know that voice”, I thought to myself. But it couldn’t be – surely not in Nordstroms. When I made it to the ground floor, I was right though – it was J Mascis, of the mighty Dinosaur Jr, now more commonly a solo artist. Just singing and screaming away on his guitar. J has a unique kind of voice, wallowy and mellow, his music melancholic and beautiful, his guitar work quite fabulous. And he was just playing away here in Nordstroms, so I just stayed and watched. Wow, what a day!
What a Bitch!
Now I needed lunch and I needed it fast. When I’m in a locale, I do like to try the local food – fish, chips and mushy peas in London, conch, jerk chicken and beans and rice in Cayman, pizza and mac n’ cheese in New York – and now in Seattle, I’ve had Northwest salmon, Elliot Bay shrimp and now I’m going to try biscuit. Biscuit in the US is different from biscuit in Australia. Our biscuits are sweet – like cookies. These biscuits, which generally come as a breakfast or lunch meal, are more like huge scones. And they are crumbly like scones too – I’m not sure why this concept is so popular, but hey, who am I to judge.
Just near Pike Market is a café called Biscuit Bitch, where you can buy just such biscuit meals. All the meals have names like Hot Mess Bitch, Smokin Hot Seattle Bitch, Bitchwitch (breakfast sandwich) and Straight Up Bitch. My lunch is You Lucky Bitch, which is basically house roasted Cuban pulled pork, grilled onions, melted swiss cheese, fried egg, bitchy sauce all wedged between – well, biscuit!
Apart from aforementioned crumbliness, sandwich was good! And it comes with chips, which I assumed was chips – as in hot potato chips/fries – but no – they mean a packet of chips. I’m so confused!
My brother in law – hi Mike! – had one request of me for my trip to Seattle and that was a visit to the Space Needle. The Space Needle is a tower located at the Seattle Centre. It’s the symbol of Seattle and was built for the 1962 Worlds Fair. Reaching 184m in height, the Space Needle was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River when it was completed.
It is built to withstand winds up to 89 m/s and earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitude. The earthquake stability of the Space Needle was ensured when a hole was dug 9.1m deep and 37m across, and 467 concrete trucks took one full day to fill it. The foundation weighs 5850 tons, including 250 tons of reinforcing steel. The structure is bolted to the foundation with 72 bolts, each one 9.1m long.
From the top of the Needle, one can see not only the downtown Seattle skyline, but also the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier and Elliot Bay and surrounding islands – unfortunately it isn’t clear enough to see Mount Rainier today.
Being a major symbol of the Pacific Northwest, the Space Needle has appeared in numerous films, TV shows and other works of fiction – It Happened at the World’s Fair (1962), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), Frasier, Grey’s Anatomy and iCarly. The Space Needle has been used for some other purposes as well, including a large 57 piece Lego construction set of it that has been released as part of Lego Architecture’s structures.
The EMP Museum (formerly known as Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame or EMP|SFM) is a museum dedicated to the history and exploration of popular music, science fiction and pop culture and it’s located on the Seattle Centre site, along with the Space Needle. It was designed by Frank Gehry and founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
There are a few exhibitions on at the moment, but I’ve got limited time, so do I whiz through each or pick one to see properly – ah darn it, let’s whiz through them all.
The first was Nirvana – Taking Punk to the Masses and it contained loads of memorabilia from Nirvana’s rise out of obscurity into grunge spotlight. Broken guitars, old set lists and gig posters – even the In Utero models. It’s all here along with interactive videos and billboard narrative.
The second was Jimi Hendrix. This room contained a number of outfits that Jimi wore as well as news articles and reviews, including this interesting little snippet….
But more on Jimi later.
The final one, which I was looking forward to the most – Women Who Rock – turned out to be the least interesting. I thought it would be an awesome display of some of history’s greatest female rock pioneers – Blondie, Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks…. but no, it was just a bunch of outfits worn by people like Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Brittany Spears and this little gem from Lady Gaga…
Anyway, moving on, cause I got a tour to catch.
Outside the EMP, I wait for my tour bus. Before long, a big black SUV pulls up with “Stalking Seattle” plastered on the back. This is my ride. I meet Charity and find out I’m the only one booked on this tour – it’s all about me. “Have you heard about the movie Singles?” she asks. “OMG yes, my sister and I are addicts”. Charity is super excited at this as most people haven’t heard of it. “And, do you know who Andy Wood was?” she asks. “Oh yeah, I love Andy!” she’s even more excited now. “This is going to be such a good tour!” she says and off we go. I tell her that I saw J Mascis playing in Nordstroms today and she’s like “No way! Norstroms – really? That is SO cool!”
The basis of this tour is pretty much to stalk out all the grunge and Singles related sites around Seattle. The ‘grunge’ scene, if you must call it anything, suddenly became a way of life to the outside world. Long johns and flannelette shirts, which Seattlites actually wore to keep warm in the North West’s miserable weather conditions, were seen on the high fashion runways thanks (or not) to designers like Marc Jacobs. Anything remotely related to grunge was marketed and sold. Bands who had hardly played a gig were suddenly signed to record labels. And everything went a little bit crazy.
But if you were into the music, actually really loved the music, it was a great time in music’s history. There were some fantastic bands, a lot of which are still around today. Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains have all released new albums this year.
Around this time, Cameron Crowe, film director and Seattle native, made his film Singles. It was a story about young 20 something singles living in Seattle and actually featured quite an all star cast – Bridget Fonda, Sheila Kelley, Bull Pullman, Campbell Scott, Jim True, Matt Dillon, Kyra Sedgewick, Tim Burton and Eric Stolz. Not to mention cameos by Alice in Chains, Chris Cornell and Stone, Jeff and Eddie from Pearl Jam. It was quite comedic and there are heaps of classic lines in it, which Leigh and I repeat over and over and over. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched this movie. And on a rainy day when I think about that era, I always pull out Singles and rug up on the sofa with a glass of red for a good laugh.
I’m aware most of this will go over your head, but Leigh – this one’s for you, let the stalking begin:
These were not the only places we saw (I’d be here all night uploading photos otherwise!). We also drove over to Renton to see Jimi Hendrix grave, Jimi’s sculpture in Pine Street, the alley where Debbie’s bike tyre gets a flat on her way to meet Jamie, the 5 Point Café where Andy Wood used to hang out, the original Sub Pop mega mart, the Metropolis (considered the birth place of Grunge, co-run by Chris Cornell’s ex wife Susan Silver), the street where the newsstand in Singles was built, the Comet Tavern (where Mia Zapata from the Gits was last seen alive before she was murdered in 1993), the Re-Bar which was used for the scene where the Spanish dude dumped Linda and her friend consoled her, the building where Andy Wood and Jeff Ament worked in whilst it was a cafe, the chair dude where Linda’s friend asked “if you got married, would we still go out dancing?” and two rock stars homes, which I’m not sure I should post pictures of, given that they are neighbours of Charity and she only showed me cause I was such a fan of the whole scene (cough, cough, ahem – Mike McCready and Stone Gossard – I didn’t tell you).
Hard Rock Café
I wasn’t actually going to visit this Hard Rock Café, because let’s face it – it was going to be hard to top the Caymans with their Eddie Vedder’s brown jacket display, but Charity tells me that there’s some Andrew Wood memorabilia in this one, so I trek down there with my camera. Now I think Seattle is wonderful, but I don’t want to paint it as perfect, because it’s not. It still has all the big city problems that any other city has. It’s quite obviously Friday night in the city centre, cause even though it’s only 7.30pm, fights are breaking out between gangs of youths on the street, and the amount of homeless people wandering around is staggering. There are a lot of addicts in this city and I won’t lie, it does make you feel a little uncomfortable at times. But generally they don’t bother you, just say no to their plea for cash (which you have to remember is usually going to fuel their addiction) and walk on by and they leave you alone. Charity said some of them act as car parking attendants to trick people into giving them cash. Crafty.
So anyway I was glad to find the café and go on in.
Unfortunately they way they have set this one out is with all the memorabilia on the outside walls with booths in front of them, so you can’t take photos without bothering the people sitting in the booth, and because it’s a Friday night, it’s packed. I can see the Yield sign from the Pearl Jam album of the same name. And Andy Woods Lakers Jersey and a guitar. There’s a drum head with signatures on it, which I can’t see, but I find out later is signed by the members of Mudhoney.
But nothing else. And the service is pretty bland. This is not Hard Rock’s finest hour.
The Original Starbucks
I’m passing by Pike Markets on the way home, so I pop by just to see if I can find the original Starbucks shop. I’m not really into Starbucks, there’s just too much cream and syrup (sorry – Layers of Delicious!) for my liking – but this is THE original Starbucks – so this stop is for you Katie.
The first Starbucks Coffee store, founded in 1971, was originally located at 2000 Western Avenue. In 1977 it moved one block away to 1912 Pike Place where it has been in continuous operation ever since. The store was opened by three partners: Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker. The sign outside this branch, unlike others, features the original logo – a bare-breasted sirenn that was modeled after a 15th century Norse woodcut. From just a narrow storefront, Starbucks offered some of the world’s finest fresh-roasted whole bean coffees. The name, inspired by Moby Dick, evoked the romance of the high seas and the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders.
Today, with more than 17,000 stores in 55 countries, Starbucks is the premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world, or so they say. Sorry, but I’m just not a fan…
After today, I simply cannot believe I am in Seattle! I never thought this would happen in a million years, but here I am, visiting the stories for real. This is the other side of the world for goodness sake. The musicians I have idolised since my teenage years walked these streets, crossed these lights and sat in these chairs. I am so, so, incredibly excited. I just can’t believe it. Who would have thought…me, in Seattle….. Wow.