Getting to Know Seattle: Cruise Season in Full Swing

When I lived in Belltown I used to walk along the waterfront at least once a week. Now, although I walk no less, that isn’t one of my regular routes. We had a beautiful weekend, so on Saturday I set out. There was a lot to see. By the time I returned home I’d walked 8 miles. I did cut myself a break and take the bus up the steep hill. My legs were tired.

Cruise season is in full swing. I’m always astonished at how close I can get to the huge cruise ships docked at Pier 66 — Norwegian Cruise Line, usually. This one is bigger than most — must be a brand new ship. By 9:30 am most passengers are off, and the new lot are already lining up to board.

I walked by around 10am. Think how much has to be done to get the ship ready for an approximate 4pm departure — x3, because there are at least three ships this size in port every Saturday and Sunday from now until mid-October. Big business for the Port of Seattle.

Farther along on my walk I met a couple from El Paso, Texas, trying to find Pike Place Market. They came in on Saturday for a Sunday departure on Princess, and were trying to see as much of the city as they could in one day. They attached themselves to me, as I was heading in that direction. They were a bit affronted at a homeless person sleeping in the entryway of the closed Federal Building. Actually, the Seattle Police work hard to keep homeless away from the main tourist areas, so this sight was fairly rare. The Texans told me sternly they thought it was time to get tough with these people, they should be taken up and arrested and sent wherever.

Yup. That’s my image of Texas. Perfectly nice people otherwise.

Getting to Know Seattle: Occidental Square

Farther along my walk I came to Pioneer Square, which is touristy, and a few blocks from that Occidental Square, which isn’t.

Poor Seattle and rich, trendy Seattle exist literally a few steps from each other. Occidental Square is a lovely, shady urban respite. During the work week there are food trucks selling lunch to the many workers who walk over during the mid-day break. There are tables and chairs, games like ping pong, chess, and bean bags, often live music. There are small eateries and specialty shops all around the square. On weekends there are urban festivals.

There is always a long table where free sack lunches are provided to the poor, often homeless, who hang around. Just across the square are the hot new coffee shops, bars, and expensive places to get a sit down lunch with wine.

Occidental Square.Trendy shops to right of tree line. Tables with free sack lunch to left.

Poor Occidental Square, the free lunch line.

Trendy Occidental Square

Getting to Know Seattle: Taking Down the Viaduct

I had no idea the de-construction of the old and structurally compromised Viaduct was so far along. This has been a two-tiered highway skirting the waterfront along Seattle’s west side, a major north-south traffic route, and it’s been replaced by a tunnel. The viaduct is coming down in huge swathes of concrete and rebar and metal and dust; fascinating to watch, even on a Saturday. Parts of the viaduct that are embedded in other structures, like the pedestrian crossway between 1st Ave. and the ferry terminal await later demolition; they stand untethered  and impassable.

Once the viaduct is entirely removed you’ll be able to walk from 1st Avenue to the waterfront unimpeded, where there will be parks and other amenities in addition to the cruise and ferry terminals, the ferris wheel, and the other tourist-oriented attractions. Great structural change for downtown Seattle.

A chunk of viaduct still standing that supports the pedestrian walkway from the ferry terminal.

Road to nowhere.

You can see how close to buildings the demolition is.

Viaduct coming down chunk by chunk.

Getting to Know Seattle: Rock n’ Roll Marathon

Rock n’ Roll Marathon is a national franchise, so the race happens in many cities during the summer months. Sunday was Seattle’s turn.

The race came right by my house, and I’m astonished at how many people tackled this super hilly challenge. The runners came right by my street, a steady stream of them for a couple of hours. They came up the back end of Queen Anne hill, which means they ran down the super steep seven blocks going into the city. Running downhill is really hard on the shins.

Early risers and dog walkers were along the route to cheer them on.

Seattle is an outdoorsy city, and this race has lots of appeal for runners and race watchers alike. Great kickoff to the summer season.

There was actually a young-ish woman, but old enough to know better, standing on the sidewalk in front of my house screaming “f***ing awesome” in a loud screechy voice as people passed. Sigh. I hardly know what to say. One of the race monitors finally went up and asked her to move along.

Getting to Know Seattle: Firsts of the Season

I’m a warm weather person, so the joys of spring, summer, and even fall far outstrip any pleasures that winter might bring. I can look at pictures of snow and be just as happy as having it outside my door.

The first local strawberries came in this week here in Seattle, and I’m in heaven. There’s nothing like the taste of a freshly picked local strawberry — so different from the tepid flavor of Driscoll strawberries available year round in the plastic clamshell container. One of the vendors at our neighborhood farmer’s market has strawberries into August, and I enjoy them all summer long.

Spring also means WNBA games, which aren’t quite as thrilling as my beloved Tour de France, but which I follow religiously. The Tour runs July 6-28, and it’s the only time I have the TV on for four hours a day. WNBA season began May 24 and ends in late September or early October, depending on how many playoff games there are.

Spring in Seattle also means leaving jackets behind, entering the dry season where watering gardens and plants is essential, more easy sources of food for the raccoons so they aren’t ripping up my lawn to find grubs, summer music festivals, cookouts and time at the pool with my family, more outdoor entertaining at my house.

To that last point, one of the best things about renting Sara’s house is my back deck, which is just off the kitchen and my small family room. This pic is early morning, but think of the deck awash in afternoon sun. It stays light here in Seattle until almost 9:30 pm at this time of year, so think of me enjoying the deck in many forms, including on my own with a glass of wine or cup of tea and a book. 🙂 Appealing, no?

Getting to Know Seattle: A Private Moment in Public Space

Seattle has quite a homeless problem. Some individuals and families who lack stable shelter live in large semi-permanent tent encampments, or in smaller groupings under highway overpasses. Some just find a semi-sheltered spot where they are more or less alone, like a secondary entrance to a building, and sleep there overnight. My former neighborhood of Belltown had a lot of people sleeping right in the midst of everything, moving from spot to spot.

My new neighborhood is less likely to have singleton overnight sleepers in public spaces, but I was out fairly early on the main drag of our small business district.  I passed a man just getting up from his night’s sleep in an alcove in front of the pharmacy. He was barefoot, his clothes rumpled, his curly hair sticking out wildly in all directions. He was stretching, and yawning. He had very little by way of possessions: a dirty sleeping bag, a small backpack. Moving on would be easy, not cumbersome. His back was to me, and our eyes didn’t meet.

I thought about what a private moment just getting up is. When I get out of bed my short, straight hair is often sticking up in odd directions. I’m barefoot, and a bit creaky on just arising. It takes a few steps on the way to the bathroom for my body to lose its stiffness. I have on a knee-length nightgown, but no underwear. I usually wash and dress before going downstairs, but if I had an early-rising houseguest I might slip on a bathrobe and my Birkenstocks and go down to make coffee first. I wouldn’t expect to perform my awakening rituals in full view of strangers.

The homeless do. The barefoot man didn’t see me as he stretched and lifted up his polo shirt to scratch his lower back. I pretended not to see him.

There’s no public bathroom near where he was sleeping, and I wondered what he was going to do next.

Getting to Know Seattle: Neighborhood Public Markets

The iconic Pike Place Market is open year round. Despite its fame as a tourist destination —  especially for departing and arriving cruise passengers — the bread and butter customer is a person who lives downtown and shops there for produce, meat, and fish. Tourists look and taste what’s on offer, but they don’t really buy much.

Each of Seattle’s neighborhoods also has a public market, for the summer season only and usually one day a week. Neighborhood market season has begun. There’s not yet local berries or vegetables, but you can see fresh rhubarb. There were also locally grown mushrooms of various kinds, lots of food trucks, some pastry vendors, a few specialty cooking oils, one wine tasting stand — enough to make the market interesting. At about 6pm, the street was packed. Cello man hasn’t shown up yet, but there was a busker playing a horn, and a local string band entertaining people sitting on the grass eating supper. You can bring, or buy from a food truck, and enjoy the music.

I quite love going to the market. There’s one vendor that has the most delicious strawberries — I can’t wait. I often have the grandkids, and they enjoy picking boxes of raspberries and blueberries and strawberries. We often buy a four or six pack, and it’s not uncommon for them to devour one pint box each before we get the rest home.

Crowd Climbing Mount Everest

Rising slightly more than 29,000 feet into impossibly thin air, the peak of Mt. Everest quite simply has too little oxygen to sustain life for more than very short time, even for climbers who use supplemental oxygen bottles.

That’s a problem when 250-300 climbers are blocking the path down, still trying to complete their own ascent. Several climbers, having summited,  died this past week of exhaustion, oxygen deprivation and altitude sickness, waiting to be able to come down.

There isn’t a wide path to the summit, where people can pass each other coming and going. There’s one narrow, icy, slippery, rocky, nearly impassably steep path.

People who die up there pretty much stay put, becoming part of the frozen landscape because it’s too hard to get their bodies down.

I simply don’t get the climbing Everest mania. I begin to feel queasy and dizzy as low as 6000 feet or so, which I discovered many years ago when Jerry and I were in Switzerland and took a chair lift in the summer to a special Alpine dining spot that had been recommended as having a stunning view. I got off the chair lift, and that was the end of any prospect of eating for me. I couldn’t wait to go back down, where I recovered quickly.

Take a gander at this pic of climbers lined up trying to reach the top, and tell me if you’d go get in that line.