Image (c) Jessica van Horne
Seattle, WA! Here we are! The city of a thousand underground tunnels and ten billion rain drops. The place where you can’t walk six steps without bumping into someone who claims they love the Mariners, but think Ken Griffey, Jr. is still playing. In our collective and/or individual heart of hearts I think we all know that sometimes…there are places…
Okay, look. I’m from Portland, and this installment hurts me deeply, but you and I know in this cruel fast-paced world out there the petty rivalries of Pacific Northwest cities aren’t worth the sore feet and aching back of the fan who just wants to watch the Seahawks do whatever it is football players do on the field. For you, I am throwing off decades of indoctrination into the Church of Portland Forever, Seattle Never. For you, I will brave the scorn of the Timbers Army and the ire of…whatever Seattle Supersonics fans are left after the team moved to Oklahoma. For I am your equipment manager, and I refuse to leave you standing on a misty street corner in the damp air of an uncaring city without any idea where to get a decent bed or a hot meal or a sports game worth your time.
Yes, the good ol’ Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, home of many, many confusing escalators, and even more closed coffee kiosks. (I am not bitter.) The super foggy sister of my beloved PDX. You can get many places from SeaTac, and return from many more. However, if you’ve, say, been kicked off your plane twice in the same day after having slept the deep and dreamless sleep of the uncomfortably exhausted in their spacious and diverse food court in Central Terminal, there’s also a variety of hotels, motels, and no-tels for your aching pleasure. Be sure to dip into their free wifi and get the best price off of kayak.com. As a side note, the waitresses at Anthony’s Restaurant are kindness incarnate and very used to helping diners with allergies find something to eat. There’s also a Starbucks. Seek ye the demon Caffeine and she shall keep you upright for that crucial five minutes more!
Yes, They Throw Fish
Pike Street Market! Where lurks a tradition of consumerism, tourism, and seafood vendors who throw their wares at each other in a stunning display of consumerist theater. But let’s be real, if you’re going to any city that draws a big tourist crowd, you’re going to run into places designed to accommodate the confused and weary traveler. Seek these places, don’t avoid them. I don’t care which faux-bespectacled urban farmer told you the best place to eat is the corner deli only open on Shrove Tuesday that won’t sell you pancakes, give yourself permission to be a tourist! You are on an adventure; adventurers are as unafraid of trying familiar things as they are interested in seeking out the new. Fearing change or embracing it is up to each woman to decide for herself. Seattle’s a big city and you will be able to find the fast food, the supermarket, or the coffee shop of your choice.
A tourist spot—like the Seattle Space Needle or the Art Museum or, really, Safeco Field—is going to be unabashedly user-friendly, and that is no small thing when you’re on the road. Sure, these places may be overpriced! But their biggest draw is they’re also fantastic ways to orient yourself. Is the restaurant close to the Pike Place Market (it’s a supermarket without walls! FASCINATING)? It will be easier to find the Pike Place Market, and then look around for the artisanal food hostel Mr. You Probably Haven’t Heard of It recommended. Do you want to grab a bite before watching the Sounders fight for the Cascadia Cup? Check out what’s around CenturyLink Field.
Rule Number One: “You Will Find a Restaurant.” If there’s one thing to do in Seattle, it’s eat, and eating is expensive in a big city. If you don’t want to wind up overspending at the game, then head over past the International District and shake down Ivar’s Acres of Clams on Pier 54. There’s beer, there’s clams, and most importantly there is chowder. A littler closer to either Safeco or CenturyLink, and a couple of blocks from the bus line, is Hawk’s Nest on 1st Ave., which has enough beer and wings (but possibly not enough seating) to satisfy any hungry pre-gaming sports fan. (Pre-game responsibly, team! By which I mean refer back to our previous installment on how to travel to an away game, and do your equipment manager proud!)
Rule Number Two: “Onwards and Upwards, or Possibly Around That Corner!” In my family, we live by the adage that four rights makes a left turn while driving and if that’s good enough for us, it’s good enough for visitors to Seattle. Understand that you will get lost a time or two, and you might not find that hip new microbrewery or comfy McDonald’s arch. Learn to go loose when you get boarded by fate, and discover something wonderful. That’s how I found lunch by wandering six different counters at Pike Place Market, and then fighting a seagull for my bench seat. (That seagull won, I sat inside an underground coffee shop whose name I never did catch and cursed marine life over half a sandwich and some newly discovered champagne grapes.)
Rule Number Three: “Here Be Coffee.” It might be a municipal by-law that makes me remind you, gentle teammate, that Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, which spawned mermaids who serve complicated coffee in large cups, and as I am a responsible citizen, please consider my duty dispensed. If your tastes run to something a little more exotic, Seattle has also birthed a swath of retaliatory independent coffee shops with names like Top Pot Doughnut on 45th and Zeitgeist Coffee on 5th street to satisfy the most rebellious of drinkers.
Rule Number Four: “You Will Figure Out How To Get There.” Seattle’s one of those cities where all the cars seem to know where they’re going, but damned if the busses can figure it out. There’s always a ton of traffic, but there’s also the Metro bus, the ferry, or the monorail to get you where you need to be. Navigating the twisting streets can be tough, but this is a city where driving a car can be an unlooked for asset. I say swallow the rental fee and check if your restaurant validates parking.
Rule Number Five: “Never Play the ‘I Forgot Your Present’ Game.’ At The Other Half we strive not to be the sort of people who take pleasure in petty one-upmanship, like those jerks who pretended they’d eaten all their kid’s Halloween candy and then filmed the crying so they could justify having a YouTube channel (of jerkdom). Seattle abounds with items both large and small designed to delight the senses and ensnare the unwary. Sadly, the two story Borders Bookstore is a thing of rosy-tinted memory, but the downtown area is full to bursting with fog globes of the Space Needle (it’s like a snow globe, but the ‘snow’ is grey on purpose!) or the offerings at the Frye Art Museum, where the art is representational, but the printed tote bags are on sale. There’s also Kinokuniya in the International District, for those readers who want their Seahawks to win, but also want a new cookbook to take home as a memento.
In big cities, it’s pretty easy to get confused. To want to dive in and try everything at once and emerge from its sodden streets as knowledgeable as any hometown hero, but if you truly want to win MVP of the trip, then you stick to the plays that got you to the big game in the first place. Don’t rush out and try everything, step out confidently and try the things that really interest you, whether that’s a really tall, pointy building with a restaurant at the top, or the sound of 47,000 people holding their breath as the batter swings for the cheap seats. And at the end of all that excitement, if you’re sitting in your hotel room wondering why you brought flip flops to a shin kicking contest, then check in next week on the Equipment Manager, I’ve got just the gear to fix you up.