Seattle is a gorgeous city - maybe not as heart-liftingly beautiful as the best of New Orleans or San Francisco (except maybe on days when the weather is clear enough for you to see the mountains, which might have been designed by Tolkien), but she's more pragmatic, with a quirky sense of humour, and doesn't seem to have a serious drinking problem or forget to take her meds. And walking through the city, you can suddenly find yourself in Wizard of the Pigeons
or a Shadowrun
game. Well, I
My first stop after I checked into the hostel and grabbed some lunch was Archie McPhee's
, after a leisurely stroll through the University District, past an erotic bakery, a bookstore that sold only poetry, a shop specializing in roller-skates for women, and various other businesses. (If you check a map, you'll see that this was something of a hike; Seattle's public transport system is so good that the people who work for it can't always remember where the buses go. If you want directions, much better to ask an Archie McPhee staffer.) I resisted the urge to buy an Edgar Allan Poe lunchbox, fugu mints or any Cthulhu-esque tentacles, settling for an Evolving Darwin figurine set and some wind-up sushi.
Those damn Edgar Allan Poe lunchboxes continued to haunt me as I visited Pike's Place Market, the scene of so many spectacular critical fails by my Shadowrun team. As a birthday present to myself, I treated myself to a meal of local seafood specialties at The Athenian and wandered down to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
- an amazing combination of souvenir shop and wunderkammer
which features human mummies, a Fiji mermaid
, and other oddities. It would be an amazing place to visit under any circumstances, but it's also where Wizard of the Pigeons
(which I was re-reading) begins.
I'd been uncertain whether to revisit the Science Fiction Hall of Fame
, appropriately near the end of the monorail line in a building that looks like someone left Perth Arena in a microwave for too long (not that I think that would necessarily be a bad idea), but I was intrigued by the promise of new exhibits about horror film and fantasy. Unfortunately, this had squeezed the sf display into a smaller space, but there were still things there that were worth seeing, including some of Tolkien's papers and an interesting collection of props from movies and TV shows, including an early Dalek, lab equipment from Bride of Frankenstein
, Kirk's chair and an original tribble (both showing their age), Inigo Montoya's and Count Rugen's swords and the six-fingered glove, Mr Pointy, assorted rayguns and spaceship miniatures, a mask from Pan's Labyrinth
, and enough original outfits to make a cosplayer drool - Uhura's, Xena's, Jareth's, the Cowardly Lion's, and others. The horror section was devoted entirely to movies (unlike the sf, which pays tribute to authors and illustrators as well as film and tv), but that actually worked rather well: Roger Corman, Eli Roth and John Landis helped choose the classic films, the lighting and sound helped set the mood, and the exhibit on the importance of sound effects and music in horror films was quite brilliant. That said, I thought that a fair amount of space was wasted (though maybe kids would see it differently) and the best video presentation I saw there is available free on youtube:
After a visit to a comic shop, another trip through Pike Place Market, and a quick bite to eat at Ivar's, I returned to the hostel via Pioneer Square. I booked a train to Vancouver as late on Saturday as practical (one thing I'm learning on this trip is that arriving in new accommodation before check-in time can have mixed results), visited some more shops, and was on the waterfront for the first anniversary of the Big Wheel on the pier. So what? Not much, except that they had a live band, Creme Tangerine
, doing Beatles covers, and people were dancing on boardwalk. Dancing badly, for the most part, but obviously enjoying themselves too much to care. I don't know whether they were tourists or locals, but it didn't matter: it was a warm, sunny day, and there was free music, and they were making the most of it.
I decided to have a real dinner in Chinatown rather than eat on the train, and while the dinner at Ho Ho Seafood Restaurant was undeniably good, service could have been faster, and I caught the train with literally two minutes to spare. I'm not sure why there was two US dollars in my hand when I reached my seat rather than the bottle of peach tea I'd had when I'd grabbed my bag from the hostel, and I'd also managed to lose my Blade Runner umbrella
, but at least I still had my bags and my passport.
I'm mildly miffed about the umbrella, but I hadn't realized when I ordered it that it was slightly too long to fit in my travel pack and would have to be carried everywhere I went, so I probably won't buy a replacement unless I see one in Tokyo. I'm more annoyed about having lost my reading glasses somewhere between San Francisco and Seattle, which meant that I had to use a pocket magnifier to read the instructions in my phone manual when I ran out of credit because they were charging me for calls I received
. And I'm still trying to deal with travel and accommodation problems caused by the Calgary floods, and suffering the effects of post-con lurgie. So it hasn't all been plain sailing, but the good has far outweighed the bad.
On the train to Vancouver, the sunset was such a gorgeous shade of salmon that even the locals were out taking photos (as was everyone in my carriage). I haven't seen much of the city yet, but the hostel seems to be in the equivalent of Northbridge, surrounded by nightclubs and cheap late-night take-away places, and the bed in my small private room is very comfortable. So things are looking good.