Sunday, October 23, 2011

Seattle Adventure: Part One

Before I moved to Portland, Jackie and I decided to go see Theophilus London in Seattle. She introduced me to his music months previous, but I had just developed a love of his first LP, Timez Are Weird These Days. One night we were chatting online, like we did nearly every single day since we met, and quickly made the decision to buy the tickets and get a hotel room. A Seattle adventure! We had been on adventures before, taking photos of graffiti art in downtown El Paso, searching around Las Cruces, basketball at random courts around El Paso, etc, but this would be on a wholly different plain. And we both felt excitement build as the day closer.


The night before we left, Jackie and I used Google Docs and Google Maps to plan out our journey and list everything we wanted to see. Each of us asked our Facebook friends if they had any suggestions for things to do. We received mostly ideas we had already had and one great restaurant recommendation. Thanks to Jackie's Android phone, we had ready access to all our maps and documents the entire time. Under the cover of the early morning darkness, we began our drive.

It is always interesting to me to drive on the highway out of a city. These roadways are surrounded by civilization, buildings, cars, lights, sounds, steel, concrete, everything; then, those slowly fade away until you are encased in a world of trees and mountains, without another person in sight. The drive to Seattle featured an eerie combination of tall trees and fog that made me stay alert as to the horror movie we surely were at the beginning of. When would a horde of zombies appear over the next hill? Of course that never happened. It was strange to notice that behind the first row of huge trees there was nothing but stumps. The trees created the facade of a forest that did not exist any longer.

Eventually we arrived in Seattle and found out we were too early to check into our hotel. No big deal. We headed toward Pike Place Market to check it out. I remember seeing a segment on, I think, NBA Inside Stuff of Ray Allen, back when he played for the now non-existent Seattle Supersonics, walking around there. We found parking at a garage directly across the street from a Cost Plus World Market. Jackie was working at one in Portland at the time; I would join her a couple weeks later. And we walked to the market to do some sight seeing.




A good crowd milled about while we checked out all the stands and shops. While we were there we saw a few people perform songs for change and one robot guy, a sort of Iron Man robot who interacted with people. One singer in particular I enjoyed, he sang tons of traditional blues and folk songs. I sat there and ate my ice cream while he played. We ended up only browsing the shops though (other than some ice cream and a coffee, more on that in a second). There were a lot of organic things and hippie things and things for tourists and, of course, fish. Also of interest was the original Starbucks. We walked over there and waited in line for a few minutes. And we arrived just in time, a huge line gathered behind us quickly after. The gentlemen in front of us spoke little to no English, but managed to get their orders okay, seemingly. I don't drink coffee, so Jackie ordered her own and we left.


We walked around for a bit more outside of the Market and just took in the scenery. At a certain point I saw a staircase I wanted to climb, it led nowhere really. But at the top and at the end of a narrow hallway stood two twentysomethings, a black man and woman, talking. This was the only part of the conversation we caught, she said very, very emphatically, "But I will not do crack!" And strangely, we each felt proud of her for that. She seemed so passionate about it. Good for you, random hallway girl!







Next we went to the Space Needle. It costs something like $20 to get in and, well, it is worth it. The views from the top are incredible. While there you get to take a free picture and have it emailed to you (or pay for a physical copy). We decided to pretend like we were married there and change our relationship statuses when we got home. It would end up freaking out some people. Oh, humor. By then we were getting hungry, but the food at the Space Needle was too expensive. So we decided to take a train to another part of town. However, we needed cash first. Because the Bank of America ATM had no money, we had to walk and walk and walk to an actual Bank of America bank to get some money out. Along the way we saw some guys playing basketball poorly.





Now flushed with all of the cash, ALL OF THE CASH, we went back to the train and took it to a shopping area. We found a chocolate shop where Jackie bought a gigantic chocolate peanut butter cup. Think a normal Reese's if it need tons of steroids. Then we went back and found a nice place to eat, the Pike Pub and Brewery. The food was good. I, of course, ordered a hamburger. Jackie and I were having a grand time.





Next we ventured over to the Experience Music Project. This was also $20 and, I have to say, not worth anywhere close to that. A theater inside was playing videos of Jimi Hendrix and that was great to see. I had seen the D.A. Pennebaker documentary about the Monterrey Pop Festival while at the Plaza Classic Film Festival in El Paso and it is always a treat to see Hendrix's performance from that. Other than the videos, there was an exhibit about his life that took all of a couple of minutes to go through and an exhibit about Nirvana, also short. We watched some interviews with various music figures in another room on individual computers. That was nice. But the best part was the upstairs interactive music stuff. Again, it had potential to be great, but was simply okay. The most fun we had was playing drums together.

Disappointed, yet still having a good time, we were finally able to head to the hotel near the University of Washington campus and relax before the Theophilus London show. We relaxed by watching Gwen Ifill host Newshour on PBS. She great, isn't she? That was fun. I don't have a tv, neither does Jackie, so that was our first tv watching experience as a couple. Yay for us! Then we got ready and drove to the Neptune Theatre.

It started raining pretty good that night. I guess we had been lucky to be completely rain-less the whole day while we walked around. We ended up parking a few block down the street and walked briskly to the venue so we wouldn't be too wet all night. Surprisingly, there were few people inside when we arrived, mostly a few groups of underage kids. The main act was something called Friendly Fires. I did not really know much about them, or care.

After waiting for thirty minutes, London and his band took the stage. His stage presence is infectious. While Jackie and I easily went down to the stage to watch, most of the people stayed in the quartered off bar area. That is, they stayed there until realizing how great this group happens to be. A few songs in I turned around to realize the dance floor was now packed with people. Theophilus was winning over new fans that night for sure.





The great thing about the show, aside from London's great stage presence, was the backing band. They seemed to really enjoy everything that was going on. While London had on the classic stoic, rock 'n' roll face throughout the show (while also constantly dancing, singing rapping), the band smiled and played and just generally looked excited to be performing. Fun to watch is London's version of Chuck Berry's "duck walk" in reverse.



After the set, we listened to part of Friendly Fires' first song and then left to get autographs from Theophilus London and meet the group. Again, London did not react to anyone really, never removing his sunglasses, but the group was more than engaging and fun. When we left the venue, we met his cousin who talked to us about how hard London worked to get where he is and how proud they all are of him.




A few hours later, we headed back to the hotel and got some rest. The next day would be our last in Seattle and we wanted to do a bit more sightseeing before leaving.

[Part Two is now online HERE]
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