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Karen, me, Will, Ian, standing atop the Graduate Seattle Hotel, at The Mountaineering Club.

In the weeks before his visit from Rhode Island, I told Will what weather to expect over here in March: rain every day, temps in the 40s and 50s. This is what happened instead: the first three days it was in the 20s and snowed, and from then on skies were sunny as it slowly warmed up day after day till it was in the 70s under blue skies the day he left. Will still has no experience of a typical Pacific Northwest day.

But all the sun made for some spectacular touristing! Will and I went to Seattle for a weekend, to visit my brother, Ian, and his girlfriend, Karen.

Space Needle rises above the tracks of the monorail.

Kitties agree that they do not want to visit the Space Needle.

The first thing we had to do was visit the Space Needle. Last spring the whole top was encased in plywood, making it bulky and ugly. Ian told me that they were planning upgrades to include a glass floor. I had to see that, and Will was game. It took 45 minutes from the moment we first got in line to purchase a ticket, till the moment we entered an elevator – and this is in March!! Just imagine how crazy this place must be in the summertime. The good news is: On your ticket there is a time for when you must return to get into the elevator line. Just go do more touristing if the wait is going to be long.

More important than the glass floor are the new glass walls. Compare the photo of my friend Mads from our trip up the Needle in 2015, to the one of Will and me this month:

Mads in Seattle, March 2015

Will and me in Seattle, March 2019. Glass walls and glass benches!

So yes, those of you with the jitters just looking at the photos…those are valid feelings. Wow! It’s woozy-making to look out through the glass at a 520-foot drop to concrete below. But get a load of the width of the glass (which I’m sure is not merely glass, but a reinforced material of some kind). You can see the edges to the left of Will in the photo above. Up close it looked a couple inches thick and could hold us up easily. It was designed to withstand storms as much as people.

We looped the upper observation deck and got photos in every direction, even scrutinizing the nearby neighborhoods till we picked out Ian and Karen’s house! We went downstairs to the rotating restaurant, and there we found the glass floors. That is when my stomach really began doing flip flops.

Me on the new glass floors in the Space Needle.

Eeeeeyikes!! Will’s feet and my feet as we look directly below at the base of the tower holding us up.

Someone has a sense of humour: this daddy long legs mural is painted on the roof.

Termination point of the monorail is just outside, after passing through the Museum of Pop Culture.

We rode the monorail to the Pike Place Market and then returned early to meet Ian and Karen and go have dinner and drinks at a bar atop the Graduate Hotel, called The Mountaineering Club. A friend of theirs is the kitchen manager and gave them the heads up that it’s now open. On such a spectacular day, it was a perfect place for even more amazing views without buying a ticket or waiting 45 minutes. We chose the outdoor seating at first, and were provided with blankets to stay warm out there while we watched the sunset. Then we moved inside to eat our meal at themed tables holding old mountaineering equipment. I had the most delicious drink of my life called “We Put Nettles In This,” with Bolivian Brandy, Aloe Vera, Grapefruit Cordial, Suze, Lime, Celery Bitters, and Nettle Fizz.

After returning home, we met an old school friend of mine from Brandeis who recently moved to Seattle. We walked up to Kerry Park to gaze at the spectacular city lights, then we walked back down the hill to share coffee and a pastry and catch up on each other’s lives. It has been 12 years since I saw her last. Wow!

Looking toward the Space Needle from The Mountaineering Club.

The view from the 16th floor of the Graduate Hotel, at the Mountaineering Club.

Waiting for my friend at Caffe Vita, my fave Seattle coffee shop.

Brandeis Anthropology kids

Lamps decorate a restaurant front in Seattle.

The next day Ian took us to the Ballard Locks, which dates from 1917. While we waited for the boats to fill the lock between Puget Sound and Lake Union (and Lake Washington, on the other side of Lake Union), we spotted wildlife. We saw Seattle’s official city bird, the Great Blue Heron. Their most serious predator in the area is Bald Eagles, and the eagles do not like all the noise of the locks, the train, and the people, so they stay away and allow the herons to raise their young.

Kingfisher inside the empty lock.

We got tired of waiting and walked over to the fish ladders. This is an important route for salmon migrations, so the locks are designed to make it easy for fish to climb or descend the 26 feet between the fresh water lakes and salt water sound. There is a educational center that has been closed for a long time and not yet made ready for the public, so we were able to get up close to the glass viewing windows, but as you can see from the photo, we did not see any migrating salmon.

Great Blue Herons in a tree near Ballard Locks.

Seagulls at the locks, making their own racket.

Educational facility at the salmon ladder is not quite ready for the public until the glass is cleaned. The window on the right is opaque with green slime.

While we were viewing the fish ladder, the lock sent a load of boats out and we missed it! This time we stayed put until a group of small boats collected inside the lock and then we watched the water fill it up. When the gate opened and the boats were free to go, we left too.

Standing at the fish ladder site, looking back toward the main building of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, better known as the Ballard Locks.

Looking toward the train bridge.

We stood with 100 other people, watching the locks operate.

Next Ian took us to Gas Works Park. It is the site of a coal gasification plant that operated in the first half of the 20th century. Contaminated soil and groundwater were cleaned up when the former Seattle Gas Light Company site was made into a park. I absolutely love the look of the abandoned natural gas generator towers, and the other structures remaining. Much of the pump house and boiler house still contain original pumps, compressors, and piping and are open to children or adults who want to climb around or picnic, but the highest structures are fenced off.

Remnants of natural gas generator towers at Gas Works Park.

Will and Ian walk beside the generator towers.

Looking down onto the towers from the kite flying hill.

The view from Gas Works Park is outstanding.

To wrap up our wonderful weekend, Ian took us into the Queen Anne neighborhood to look at expensive houses and see the fabulous views their owners purchased. Lucky for us, the common people can come up and look any time we want, for free.

A gorgeous March day in Seattle.

Riza Hawkeye in my combat boots

Miss T has been a fan of cosplay and animecons for several years now. Nearly all her friends are caught up in the same obsession. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, think people dressed as Spock and Klingons among swarms of other Trekkies inside a hotel convention space. Only this is for Japanese anime and manga (cartoons and comic books). Cosplay is to dress up as one’s favourite character. The cons are conventions, of course.

She’s still young enough that I won’t let her attend a con in Seattle without me. I decided to go ahead and book a room at the con, let her go do her thing, and hang out with my brother Ian while she’s busy.

On the three-hour drive up, T shared some of her thoughts and anxiety. Months ago, all her teen friends were talking about going to Sakuracon. That’s when she begged me for permission to go, so that she could join them. One by one, her friends found that they would not be able to join Sakuracon after all. In the end, T is the only person of her group to make the trip.

Then they started trash-talking Seattle cons.

A group of cosplayers at Sakuracon

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

“They said the people at Seattle cons are all stuck up, and that they don’t accept people from other places,” Tara mentioned, not a little concern in her voice. “They said Seattle cons are nowhere near as fun as the Portland/Vancouver cons, because people are so competitive and mean. I’m a little worried. I mean, I just want to have fun, not to try to prove I’m better than anyone.”

I tried to shape my voice into as casual and offhand-sounding as I could before I asked my question. “Have any of the Portland anime fans had a chance to get to a Seattle con before?” My deception worked, and she answered the question instead of responding to my accusation. She thought about it a minute and answered, “Um, I’m pretty sure none of them have.” “That’s too bad,” I said, again, as casually as possible. I dropped the topic, hoping the message would seep through and catch her later.

Ian met us at the hotel while Tara was dressing as Riza Haweye from Fullmetal Alchemist. We walked with her to an entrance to the convention, and watched her for a little while to see how it would go for her. There was a large gathering of people. Many with orange, yellow, and red curvy horns – from an anime I am not familiar with. Tara walked to the outer edge to watch what was happening. There were the usual shockingly short miniskirts, the always-present black capes with red clouds from Naruto. In about three minutes, she was approached by a tall, thin boy dressed as Colonel Roy Mustang. In the story, Riza is the Colonel’s bodyguard.

Too far away to hear, I saw Riza telling something to Colonel Mustang, and gesturing with her hands. He motioned to her to follow and they wound through the crowd and up the steps around a corner out of sight. She didn’t even look back. *Sigh!* My little girl, so grown up she doesn’t even need Mom when she’s in a swarm of people in an unfamiliar city. I looked at Ian and he made some comment regarding that too. We both agreed that at age 14, neither one of us would have had even a fraction of the emotional constitution required to just do what she had done: dump us in 5 minutes in the heart of a major city.

By 9pm that night, she had joined a whole troupe of cosplayers there with parents, spilling into all available corners and horizontal spaces of two adjoined hotel rooms. T begged to stay the night with them but I said “no.” Introductions were made all around and I apologized to the parents, “Please don’t take it the wrong way, but I wanted to spend this time with my kid.” They assured me that the group of teens was large enough already and they weren’t TOO upset about not having one more. Instead, facebook friendships were firmly established.

Seattle Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus

That evening I explored the city with Ian, who has lived there for several years now and was a good person to show me the place. I always love to see what architecture is on display in a place, and since his studies at the University of Idaho were in the field, I knew he would point me in the right direction. We beelined first of all for the library, but it had just closed. Ian said the inside of the building is remarkable, but I was impressed with the outside too.

Reflection of the Space Needle on the side of the music, sci-fi, and pop culture EMP Museum

We passed some other interesting buildings, then took the monorail to the EMP Museum. Ian says he rides the monorail every day in his commute to work. How fun! The EMP Museum is a work of art in itself. Frank O. Geary designed the building to evoke the spirit of Rock n’ Roll. Well, I didn’t read it as rock music per se, but I did get a distinct sense of colour, movement, and fun. It actually evoked more Disney than Hendrix, but don’t tell Geary I said that. Far from insubstantial, I found the building design truly eye-popping. Astonishing curves rose to unlikely heights and imbalances. I can’t believe I’ve never seen this place before. The monorail went right through a gap in the museum!

We didn’t go up into the Space Needle, since I had just done thatlast summer with my friend Vladimir. We did walk to his house, since he lives practically at the base of the needle. We hopped into his sunflower-yellow pickup truck and went on up the hill.

Freezing my tush at Kerry Park

“Have you been to Kerry Park at Queen Anne?” he asked. Since I didn’t know what he was talking about, my answer was a pretty solid “no.” Queen Anne is his neighborhood. Well, nearly. Ian is not a millionaire, but he lives nearby. He told me the viewpoint is the location for all the amazing Seattle shots that feature the Space Needle and Mt. Rainier. Postcard scenes. The clear sunny skies were growing darker, and without the sun to keep me warm, I was getting downright cold. But it couldn’t keep me in the truck. The view was spectacular!

Seattle, Space Needle, Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier

We got out and stood at the railing with the other folks, and gazed out across blossoming cherry trees and syringa, across the city lit up in the setting sun, and all the way to the snow-capped and majestic Mt. Rainier on the horizon. The bay waters wrapped around the west side of the city and glanced reflections back to us.

People gazing out at the view of the city at dusk.

Then he took me to dinner at a really awesome restaurant. The atmosphere, the good food, and the beer warmed me back up.

As is typical in any kid-on-her-own scenario…T’s phone battery died. I had been attempting to text her for an hour, and finally got a text message from an unknown phone number. “Hi I’m borrowing Stacey’s phone. My phone died. I’m ok. Can I stay the night with Stacey?” I realized it was time to go back and find my kid.

From our hotel room, we could spot clouds and moon good enough for any Halloween scene.

Ian came back in the morning to share breakfast with us. For convenience sake, we ate in the Hilton restaurant. It was way too expensive, but it did have an astonishing view, so that partially made up for the expense. We said our goodbyes and went back to Portland.

The verdict in the end? “The Seattle cons are just as much fun as in Portland,” Tara assured me on the way home. “No one was stuck up and I had a great time.”

“I wonder what all those Portland people were talking about,” I said.

“Well, it was really only Sam and Alex,” she admitted. “Maybe they were exaggerating. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure they’ve never been to a Seattle con before.”

“Maybe,” I agreed. And I knew my girlie had just learned a life lesson.

One of my many guises

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