Thursday, 18 August 2016

Tacoma's revenge.

About 15 years ago a favourite t-shirt of mine carried the logo of Einstein Bros bagels. I neither knew, nor particularly cared, whether or not this was a genuine business and I'd not thought about either the garment or the brothers much since.

But this morning I found myself enjoying a cheddar and jalapeƱo bagel with cream cheese filling in their Seattle shop - and tasty it was too. I opted to wash it down with some Melvins dark roast coffee. In truth I opted for this because of the connection with the influential grunge band - although it seems unlikely that Dale Crover had personally sourced the beans.

The business vibe of the area was to quickly turn to something quite different as I descended into the Pioneer Square Historic District.

Styled as 'Seattle's original neighbourhood' the panhandlers, street drunks, and ladies on corners no doubt paint a vivid enough picture for you.

Yet, at its heart, Occidental Square also offers dance classes, free film screenings, giant Connect 4 and chess, and bocce too. Whatever that is! Information boards relate the area's history. One as chequered as those giant chess boards

Nearby the white terracotta Smith Tower was the city's 1st skyscraper. Constructed in a neoclassical style in 1914 it was briefly the fourth tallest building in the world.

I wasn't going up though. I was going down. Going underground. A tour of underground Seattle with our guide Shane. A genuinely funny, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic guide. It makes the difference. It really does.

What appears to be ground level in much of old Seattle isn't. It's a level up. A fire caused by an error in the glue making process necessitated rebuilding the new city on top of the old and there remains a network of tunnels, cellars, and even crude infrastructure beneath the sidewalks and saloons of the Emerald City.

It was through these that Shane led us. Thomas Crapper's visit to the area and the subsequent adoption of toilets left one big problem. There was no effective sanitation.

A series of pipes led down to Elliott Bay. All the pooh made its way there where the tides washed it down to Tacoma much to the amusement of the Seattle folk who seem to enjoy a rivalry with the nearby city. Of course once the tide turned the turds turned too. Tacoma's revenge.

Another great story Shane told was that of Wild Bill Gates. It's not known if he was related to his famous namesake who made his Microsoft millions (and more) here in Seattle. He certainly had a similar acumen when it came to wealth creation though.

Many prospectors stopped in Seattle on their way to try and find their fortunes gold mining in the Yukon. Most failed. Most who succeeded soon blew their fortune and returned to the Klondike and failed.

But Wild William Gates struck gold a remarkable 4 times. Then, once more, in Mexico, for good measure. He married and got rinsed out by three sisters. Eventually he found love, of sorts, with their mother who was still 8 years his junior. You know what they say here? You do the math.

On one excursion his frostbite was so severe he lost all his toes. Ever resourceful he simply hunted down a bear, chopped its feet off, and wore them as shoes. The sight of his paw prints in the snow became part of his remarkable legend.

The city's original name was Duwamps which wasn't popular with all. Some of the pioneers petitioned for a name change to Seattle. Named after an English approximation of the name of the local chief. Chief Sealth.

Sealth said that in native American custom a chief's name should never be uttered after his death. If it was said elder would rotate ten times in his grave. Not fancying an eternity of sp!n he refused permission.

The pioneers returned to Sealth with an offer of cash. He would receive a lump sum for every year he remained alive. As Sealth was already 58, past the life expectancy of his people at the time, this must've seemed like a worthwhile gamble. But as he lived to 75 its merits may be up for debate.

Still Sealth was paid off (though Shane insisted this wasn't a bribe!) and Seattle it became - and remained.

Back on Pioneer Square trad jazz buskers played in front of the bust of the old Chief and the pergola left over from the World's Fair.

I strolled back up to Capitol Hill, snapping buildings that took my fancy along the way. I stopped in Fogon for Mexican food. Huevos rancheros. I hoped they'd neither cause Tacoma's, nor Montezuma's, revenge.

I stand out around Capitol Hill by dint of not being heavily tattooed. So many illustrated folk abound now that surely any idea of ink representing any form of counter culture must be redundant. If not completely reversed.

I'd bought a copy of The Seattle Times. It was a slim volume at best and on further investigation proved to be virtually completely worthless. The bum headline, above, provided the briefest of chortles but instead I turned to a story about Donald Trump. As an outsider I was interested to read how this man, universally condemned as a violent racist and laughed at for his silly hair elsewhere in the world, was perceived in his own country.

It's an ongoing work but today's story was about Trump adding 'provocative brawler' Stephan Bannon to his team. The former Goldman Sachs banker is head of Breitbart News and, apparently, has 'a knack for clashing with the establishment'.

If you can't see what's wrong with that statement you're part of the problem. If you're a former Goldman Sachs banker and the head of a news corporation on Donald Trump's presidential campaign team you ARE the establishment. You stand as squarely against it as a man with a body covered in circus tattoos stands against hipster led gentrification. I went back to my room for a lie down.

Not because either of these things had annoyed me that much but because I was tired and my friend Simon wasn't arriving until 2300hrs and I felt a prudent move would be to rest up before the long night ahead. Luli was back at the airbnb, of course.

I caught a few zs and when I woke I realised David was in too. Naturally I introduced myself. He was a charming, friendly, handsome guy. Originally from Bogota he'd relocated to Seattle from Miami.

Him and a friend were having margaritas and pico dips. I declined a kind offer of the same but accepted when he a pulled a cold can of IPA from his fridge.

As I headed back up to Capitol Hill I got a text from Simon. Delayed in Chicago he wouldn't arrive until gone midnight. Our plans postponed until the morning I was now on a solo mission. I checked myself before I wrecked myself

I headed to the Comet Tavern and took a Rainier. A great bar with a great attitude (see pictures below) and a double urinal for guys who like to pee together. Because those who pee together are free together.

It says something, though I don't know what, that, even in this hotbed of liberalism I heard a studious looking guy tell a studious looking girl that his "first shotgun" was "so cute".

The big screen was showing Seattle Seahawks away to Minnesota Vikings in my least understood American sport. There seemed to be some kind of eagle mascot and a chance to win a Toyota.

In a retreat to my comfort zone the Wall of Sound record shop looked right up my boulevard (Croatian disco/funk anybody?) but was closed. Elysian Brewing Company was open though. I popped in and had a Zephyrus. I'd hoped to eat in Caffe Flora, a veggie joint with fine dining on the patio, but, as I was alone and time was tight (they close early here), that, sadly, didn't happen.

Instead I tried to get a drink in Linda's. An institution of sorts I'm informed. New Order and Elvis Costello, music of my formative years, blasted out. Last of the Famous International Playboys as well. Did they let me in? Did they fuck?

Not because I was pissed (I wasn't) or free of ink (I was) but I had no ID. At 47! Rules are rules though, even when they're dumb, so I popped back for my passport and returned to Linda's. A guy bumped me intentionally and then threw me a "what's up bro?" on the way and then the tender got an attitude on because I was "standing in the well". A sentence I still don't understand.

I tell you this. When you travel alone every fucking jerk you run into sees you as easy meat. A face to be slapped. Someone to impress a girl in front of. I try and laugh it off but what price the long term psychological effects, eh?

Small scale shameful shenanigans are hardly unique to Seattle though and I won't let a couple of dicks ruin an otherwise great day. I'll discard them like a couple of green crisps and look forward to tomorrow's ferry ride to Bremerton and Saturday's big wedding.

As a coda I popped back to the Comet for lasties. Pressure Drop was playing, the Seahawks lost, I met friendly people. My faith was restored as easily it was nearly lost.

Dave Evans, Tacoma, and Frances Farmer will have their revenge on Seattle.

No comments:

Post a Comment