Monthly Archives: June 2014

A Safeco Field Sendoff and the Inevitable End of Year Six

After lunch everyone met back up near the tree that stands at the end of Pike Place Market, at Virginia and Pike.  From there we moved in a more or less northwesterish direction to Lenora Street and took that to 5th Avenue.

Whether it was the time of day, the angle of the sun, the breeze off the bay, our sheer exhaustion or the city itself, this was a beautiful walk.  Seattle surprised us all by being clean.  I’m not sure why were surprised, maybe Portland lowered our expectations of every city, but we were.

Along 5th we walked in the shadow of the monorail line, but unlike most areas we’d walked through in Chicago or New York, this elevated train line didn’t detract from the buildings around it.  Businesses and real estate didn’t suffer for being near the line.  Except for the immigration office, or law firm, whatever it was.  I don’t think anyone really cared much about that place, though.  Or you know what?  It may have made that monorail cooler.

wpid-wp-1404253909665.jpegThere were boutique shops and restaurant, fountains and coffee shops, a glass blower, all along this street.  I understand, the monorail has a smaller footprint than a full blown elevated train line and since it services a significantly more limited area its reach isn’t as great.  It may not be fair to compare the aesthetic or economic effects of a monorail to an L.  And this one, I believe, only dates back to the 1960s, so NYC and Chicago have a hundred years of blight and decay on Seattle when it comes to that.    Well, you know what?  I’m going to compare them anyway.  This was a cool walk.   You did good Seattle.

We saw just the tip for a moment and it was gone.  We were so close!  The monorail line curved away from us and we turned onto Denny Way for a moment until at 4th Avenue we turned again.  Then there it was again and this time we got a good view.

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The Space Needle was really cool, and we only saw the outside of it and the gift shop.  Honestly, I’m ok with that.  It was $24 to ride up to the top and the wait was a little ridiculous.  Would I love to go back and take a ride to the top, maybe have dinner, see the city at night from up there? Of course.  I’m cheap, not dead.  Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Instead, we spent a lot of time in the gift shop and took some great pictures inside and out of the Space Needle.  Would it have been great to take some shots of the city from up there?  Absolutely.  Do I feel like I missed out on something because we didn’t?  Nope.  Besides, that Space Needle t-shirt was expensive.

Around the Space Needle has a great amusement park feel to it.  There are more souvenir shops; one Seattle-themed, another Northwest-themed, and also what I thought to be a third cleverly named shop but, in fact, was the actual monorail station.

wpid-wp-1404166307054.jpegNearest the Space Needle is the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition hall, featuring a massive suspended glass sculpture.  Just outside is an art installation called Sonic Bloom, comprising of massive Dr. Seuss-like flowers that collect solar power to glow at night and will also generate harmonic tones as you walk around them, giving them a cool interactive quality.

Beyond the glass museum was an amphitheater, an IMAX theater, the Kobe Bell (which I don’t think any of us got around to seeing) and tons of people.  Tons.  For everything that was in this area, there was still a lot of open space, great for picnics, field trips, I think some kids had a soccer game going.

We caught the monorail back down 5th Avenue and started walking again, hitting a disappointing patch of Chinatown and then stopping into CenturyLink Field to say hi to Richard Sherman before heading over to the Pyramid Alehouse.  It turned out, this was directly across from the ballpark.  It also turned out, that this is when things started to get a little hazy for me.  I can say, however, that there was definitely a baseball game at some point, after which, the Mariners were nice enough to put on a fireworks show for us.  I assume it was for us.  Why else would they have fireworks?  Obviously, it was to celebrate the conclusion of our trip.  I guess I could be wrong.

After leaving Safeco Field it was a short walk in the misty Seattle rain to the train station and a somber ride back to Tukwila for our cars.  The ride was somber for a lot of reasons.  Most of which are none of your damn business.  But we knew the night was winding down, that the trip was coming to a close.  Kevin and Tony had shipped their beer home already, and in the morning we’d all meet up at the airport to say goodbye to Seattle and Dave (mostly Seattle) and head home.

After the disappointment that was Portland, Seattle proved to be a high point of the trip, all of us agreeing that we would love to come back and explore more.  Which is great for everyone since Dave is offering free lodging, whether he knows it or not.

We eased into Baseball Trip this year and took it easy on the ballgames, giving ourselves the time to explore that we regretted not having on previous trips.  Sure, there were times we didn’t like each other much, but that’s completely expected when you cram nine people into two cars for a week, especially with how much Kevin farts.  There was beer, karaoke, sea lions, the Golden Gate Bridge, dirty old hippies, dozens of bookstores, beer, hills, dirty young hippies, more hills, more beer and even some baseball.

We didn’t do everything we wanted, but we did more than we expected.  There wasn’t a dull moment.  Of course, with this group of idiots, the same could be said if we’d have hung out in someone’s backyard.  That’s what makes Baseball Trip so great; it isn’t the baseball or the driving, it isn’t scaring the locals (or being scared by locals), it isn’t the beer or the crop dusting of entire city blocks.  It’s these people, this group, that has evolved and changed so much since that first year when our road trip route was shaped like a chicken wing.  C’mon, we’re from Buffalo.  What did you expect?  And yes, that chicken wing was hot and spicy, just like Nick Markakis’ mom.  Sorry, Baseball Trip joke.

There’s not one of us who wouldn’t agree with Tony (twice), when he said: Best baseball trip ever you turds!

So that’s it.  Thanks.

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Later losers. See you next year.

Following the Golden Pig | Visiting the Pike Place Market

The tail end of Seattle may be a little hazy thanks to the Pyramid Alehouse and a few subsequent beers at the Mariners game, but the day we spent in the city prior to that was a great finish to the trip.

wpid-wp-1404165560271.jpegSeattle is beautiful.  We had no idea until we got downtown and visited Pike Place Market and made our trek through downtown.  A part of me wishes we’d stayed downtown and gotten more exposure to all that was there, but in the end, I think everything worked out really well.

We stayed outside the city in Renton, half of us staying at Dave’s apartment, the other half getting a hotel room.  The driving was a little weird out there, since they seem to really like those raised reflectors embedded in the street rather then painting lines, but all in all it was a nice little suburb.

Dave lives (and I am in no way condemning this, we loved it) in what I can only describe as a retirement community for millennials.  By this I mean he was in a massive apartment building and surrounded by a shopping plaza with a Target, Regal, a World of Beer, some other stuff nobody cares about, and a restaurant called the Rock that will serve you a margarita in a bucket.  We now have two buckets in my house.  We would have more but I’m a little bitch and stuck to beer, and they cut Bridgett off after two.

Dave’s whole complex or whatever non-creepy way they refer to it was nice.  It had everything you could need and, best of all for us (after the 400+ beers available at World of Beer), we were pretty close to the Tukwila train station.  Our train took straight through a mountain and into the city itself.  Getting off at the University Station we made our way down to the fish market.

wpid-psx_20140629_174104.jpgOr, more accurately, the Starbucks across from the fish market.  It was early, give us a break; after nearly a week of traveling we were finally feeling fluent in Pacific time.  Gone were the early, early mornings where we’d translate the time to Eastern to justify our ungodly alertness.  No, we were on the right time now, and we weren’t particularly happy about it.

So Starbucks it was.  But not the first Starbucks.  Across from the fish market there are two Starbucks locations, the original one with the first logo that shows a topless mermaid that Starbucks no longer uses.  Because its perfectly fine to show rape and murder, blood and guts, entrails pouring out of people, to swear and make dick jokes until even my friends are sick of them, all on television, but a brown etching-style illustration of a two-tailed mermaid with nipples?  Nipples?!  That’s crossing a line.

The nipples location has a line out the door and down the block at all hours, so anyone who actually wants to drink a cup of coffee rather then Instagraming a picture of one, goes to the corner of  1st & Pike where they can buy Seattle skyline mugs and have their Caramel Macchiatos made wrong.  I had three days training in a cafe four years ago, and even I remember that the venti gets three shots.  Its one of the only drinks that gets three for a venti, that’s why if you order a latte or whatever, you’re getting scammed, its the same number of shots as a grande just more milk.  I’m just saying.  Face it Starbucks, at 1st & Pike, you should be bringing your A game, not this weak ass macchiato shit.

Before we made it into the Fish Market itself we had to take a disgusting detour.  I just spent a week on the road with six other guys, none of us our shy about bowel movements, having them or talking about them; we even went into a sea lion cave, which is only slightly less sanitary then our hotel bathrooms, and I am still calling this the most disgusting sight of the trip: the Gum Wall.

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I’m serious, that’s all gum. You’re all disgusting.

Something about it just turns my stomach, but I will agree, it is a sight one needs to see while in Seattle.  Legend has it the guy who owned the Market Theater on Post Alley hated when kids would chew gum during the shows, so he’d kick them out.  They’d walk out of the theater, turn the corner and stick their gum to the wall, and return to the show.  At least thats the story I overheard down there and then prompted retold.

Monkey see, monkey do, and now there’s a perfectly good building covered in gum; stuck and dripping, melted in the hot sun and running together, shiny in the misty rain.  Its disgusting.  Go see it.

Back around the corner and up the spaceman steps is the Fish Market proper.  Your first stop?  Pay homage to the golden pig.  Then turn around because the stall directly in front of the pig has the best fish throwers down there.  After that, good luck.

I can’t begin to tell you about the awesome shops and stalls throughout the market; the fish, the flowers, the beautiful artwork from local artists, the terrible chotchkie probably from China, the vintage poster shop on the lower level, the nerd store with a wall of bobbleheads, the magic shop I didn’t go in, all the bookstores I did go in, the pickle stand, the creepy little gnome statue, even the mosaic silhouettes outside the restrooms.  You have to go down there, you have to see it all, you have to smell it all, its all amazing.

Here’s one thing there you should check out, and I’m telling you about it because I overheard that it was new, and that a lot of people miss it.  Standing in front of the the golden pig’s ass you head to your ten o’clock, go around a corner and follow these red arrows that are high up on the wall pointing you to the locked door of Maximilien Restaurant.  I don’t know if it was supposed to be locked, if its always locked, or if Max was just messing with us that day, but this is where you need to pay attention.  There will be a short hallway to your left before the locked door of Maximilien’s (seriously, there were just eight signs, a mannequin and big neon arrows pointing me to this restaurant, and the door is locked?  There are people inside, I can see you, you can’t hide from me).  Ignore Max’s, go back and head down that hallway.

wpid-psx_20140630_190759.jpgThis will take you outside to a new community garden, with a creepy pig chair, a lot of bamboo and wash basins used at planting pots, with a replica of the golden pig that is black and has chalk hanging from his butt.  Also, it has the best view of Elliott Bay, Bainbridge Island and the Puget Sound you’ll ever see.  Or it might just seem that way after fighting through those crowds in the fish market.

This is where we ate lunch, along with Carl, the labradoodle, who raced around the garden like he’d never been let free to run before, but always answered immediately to his name.

Lunch was from Jack’s Fish Spot, a quick meal of fresh crab salad, scallops, prawns (that honestly, I expected to be bigger but nevertheless were delicious) and fries so gloriously fried and dripping with amazing fishy grease that even I couldn’t finish them, no matter how badly I wanted to.  My stomach had already begun gurgling with the warnings of a deep fried shit I would be in no position to take given the lack of available restrooms once we got walking through the city again.

We were getting on towards the meeting time with our group to leave the market and continue our adventure through the remarkably clean streets of downtown Seattle.  Seriously, the place was immaculate.

And look, I told you we aren’t shy about talking about our bowels, I won’t apologize for it now.  I will talk about it to you, I just won’t talk to you while I’m doing these things.  That’s a rule, no matter how many times Kevin tries to get me to.  See, on Baseball Trip there are two constant and eternal concerns that the sooner you come to terms with, the better for everyone, and if you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you have…  They are:

“Can I poop here?”

And, “Where can I charge my phone?”

Doughnuts and Hipster Dreams at the Biff Tannen Pleasure Paradise

wpid-psx_20140629_145454.jpgI think I’ll stick with my occasional viewings of Portlandia from now on, because  Portland, you’re kind of a dump.  I love you Powell’s Books, and Deshutes, you were nice too, but the rest of the city?  What’s going on?  You need a shower and a change of clothes.

And by “I love you Powell’s Books” I mean, I love you Powell’s books, because except for that really bubbly cashier, no one else in that store seemed happy to be there.  Employees weren’t particularly eager to help their customers, and the customers, for their part, felt no need to hide the fact that you, their fellow browser, were a major inconvenience to them.

One couple actually squeezed their way in between me and the shelf I was looking at and backed up onto me until I was forced out of the aisle so that they might browse that shelf.  I’d never had that happen before.  When I looked around me to suddenly realize I was no longer in the aisle, I was actually impressed with them.  Then I went and cried in the corner.

I whispered to Dave as we circled a pair of employees at the information desk, “Don’t tell anyone I work for Barnes & Noble, they might kick me out.”

I was joking.  Besides, it didn’t matter.  They would have had to recognize that Dave and I were there first.

I’d forgotten, this was an independent bookstore.  You know who works in corporate, soul-sucking bookstores?  College kids, retail lifers, book lovers who thought it’d be neat to work with books all day before corporate America incinerated them from the inside out, and people who probably don’t even read and will do whatever they’re told for a paycheck.

Who works in independent bookstores?  Artists.  They’re not there to make money or help customers, they’re there to be surrounded by their art man, until they hit it big, you’ll see.

So even though Dave and I were clearly looking for something and talking to each other about where in this two story multi-room bookstore neither of us was familiar with, we could check to look for our Ninja Turtle comic books, the pair at the information desk were content to talk to each other about their preferences in Science Fiction rather then us.

I can understand now why my bosses make such a big deal out of greeting customers on the sales floor, acknowledging that they are in the store, that they exist on the same plane of reality.  Most people won’t ask for help, not until they’re engaged first.  They really want to believe they can find things on their own, even in a store they’ve never been in before.

I guess I just don’t understand why everyone is so standoffish out here.  I know in Buffalo we joke about everyone knowing one another and being overly friendly, and I’m not even looking for that out here anymore.  How sad is that?  I don’t even want you people to be friendly towards, I would just like you to stop looking through me or flat out ignoring me when I say excuse me, or try to walk down the sidewalk that is actually wide enough for both of us.

It may have been a combination of it being evening and the area of the city we were in, that led to this negative opinion.  My friends abandoned us at Powell’s to search for Voodoo Doughnuts and told us to meet them there.  It wasn’t too far either, six blocks?  Six blocks, two strip clubs, a half-nude mannequin with a painted face and leather fetish, a sketchy as hell gas station, two burned out cars, one stabbing, a stray cat very vocal about its displeasure in being covered by what I hope was only motor oil, a clown on stilts who warned us we were wandering into the Red Triangle Circus Gang’s turf, 37 homeless people is various stages of decomposition, and a very large Cheshire cat that winked at me and then vanished into thin air.

I may have exaggerated that list a little, I’ll let you decide what was made up.

Do you remember in Back to the Future II when Marty first gets to the center of town in the altered timeline, and there’s trashcan fires and motorcycle gangs, and neon lights all around him?  That’s how it felt walking down to Voodoo Doughnuts, and this was a Wednesday night.  I think on Fridays things really get going when they bring out the Thunderdome and hold homeless death matches.  There’s certainly enough contestants, just check any doorway.

The homeless guy that stood three feet from our table outside of Voodoo while we ate our heart disease and yelled, “Change!” repeatedly until finally wandering off to reclaim his section of sidewalk, could be the referee for Thunderdome Portland.  He had excellent projection.

I didn’t get a doughnut.  I wasn’t in the mood and they were too over the top, wasn’t my kind of place.  Sprinkles are as crazy as I get when it comes to doughnuts, and usually, I’m fine with plain.  Classic doughnuts, we’ll call them.  I don’t need the Captain My Captain with  Captain Crunch all over it, the Maple Blazer Blunt or a Cock-N-Balls, or whatever had bacon on it, or twelve dozen other different kinds of diabetes on an overpriced doughnut.  You didn’t even know there were that many kinds of the diabeetus did you?  You’re welcome.

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They did have very nice facades in Portland. That says it all.

Even on day two in Portland, when we promised to keep an open mind, we had a hard time getting comfortable.  It was just so cold and… trendy.  In Canoe, a store on SW Alder Street, there was a carved wooden dog no more than five inches high selling for $130 and watches for over a thousand.  Unless these things can stop time, I can’t understand wearing a watch that cost me a month’s wages.  But, obviously, that watch isn’t being marketed to someone in my paygrade.  I get it, I’m in a city, I’m downtown, things are expensive.  But it isn’t that nice a city.  We never screamed, “Isn’t it fun to be downtown!” like we normally do on Baseball Trip.  Because it wasn’t.

A lot of the stores seemed full of themselves, but we did come upon a gaggle of food shacks on SW Alder between 9th and 11th Streets.  At first we thought they were all food trucks, but as we got up closer we realized they were all part of a food marketplace that stretched a couple blocks.

After the eighth text from our friends to meet them on Sixth Street (no cross street, just Sixth) we decided we should head over, since clearly, based on their insistence to meet them there, there must be naked women handing out free beer down there.

We didn’t make it that far, instead coming upon 12th Street and Burnside.  There we found some cool restaurants, the winner for lunch being Henry’s 12th Street Tavern.  A little fancier looking inside then its name implies, it had an extensive beer selection, including a Rye IPA made only for the restaurant.  Also they had a burger stuffed with cheese, bacon, onions and jalapeños, then topped with more cheese.  More importantly, they had waffle fries smothered in Gouda.

Henry’s was a great bookend to our Portland trek, since the evening before we’d started out at Deschutes Brewery on 11th and Davis for dinner. Our reason for going there was fifty/fifty; amazing beer and elk burgers.  Out of nine of us, six got flights which let those guys sample six different beers, so between us we pretty much tried everything they had that was worth trying.

There were t-shirts purchased, glasses stolen and burgers destroyed.  The place was a little touristy, but our waiter was great, the beer was awesome and the food offered us a few things we’d never had before.  What more could you ask for?  Another pretzel.  That’s what more I could ask for: that giant circular soft pretzel with its spicy mustard and melted cheese dipping sauce was tits; I could have eaten twelve more and left Portland a happy camper.

Instead, a cable car ripped off our side mirror, I wandered into the Biff Tannen Pleasure Paradise and for the first time in my life seriously questioned whether or not I was going to be stabbed to death over a doughnut.  Eh, what are you gonna do?

On to Seattle, I guess….

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