Friday, September 25, 2009

Portland, Ho!!!

I left Seattle by train. It's my favorite way to travel from Seattle to Portland. It's a three hour ride through some pretty scenery of lower Washington state. You get a great view of Mt. Rainier early on the voyage. I sat next to some one who was friendly and that help the trip go faster. He got off the stop before Portland so when I got off the train, I was on my own.

I was hoping to find the hotel I stayed at in 1991. i didn't know the name but I figured I knew the location. I paid 42 dollars for a room back then. I doubt I would get a deal that good or even one that would be less than 100 dollars. I became obsessed with this. Nearly 200 dollars for a room? I asked around and I don't know why I was embarrassed by the fact I couldn't find one. Was it that I was a rube who was unaware of discount rates or was it because I'm so cheap? I pondered this as I ate a decent meal at Crl's Jr., another west coast institution.

Now I love Portland with its light rail and many parks and fountains but man does Portland have a tolerance for homelessness. A huge variety of people out living on the streets. It's a very tolerant city but the nice weather may have a lot to do with it.

Anyway, I couldn't find the hotel and others were not good enough to pay for more than 100 dollars for. After dragging my roller bag for over an hour I decided to take the Green Line light rail out of downtown to find a cheap hotel. I found a Motel 6, annoyed that it costs over 85 bucks but it allowed me to settle in and explore Portland. Which basically involved going to Powells Book Store, the best book store in the world. I bought nothing though. This was after going to Macy's to find it had closed just as I pulled out a shirt that I thought was great.

After Powell's I found a bar that specialized in the regional microbrews. A selection of 21 brewers and they sold samples, ten ouncers, and twenty pints. It was awesome. a mellow place that was rowdy do to a bachelorette party. A few of the guys there amnd I decided to join in on the fun. Only one bartender was there but we were cool enough to not frazzle him. I must have sampled 8 beers while getting to know the crowd. I was quite buzzed and when the bachelorette party broke up I thought it would be a good time to leave too. Eventually I found my way back to the Motel 6, Thankfully I have good navigation skills. I had my first good night sleep since I arrived on the west coast.

I woke up once again being enraptured by television. This time it was an old Disney movie called the Incredible Journey. I'm a sucker for animal movies and a bigger sucker for movies that have incredible cinematography. I got caught up in the plot of two dogs and a cat trying to find their way home. Buuuuuuut, I had to get out and get ready for the longer trip by train to San Francisco. I had time to kill so I bought some books at Powells had a very good mocha there. I bought that shirt and another shirt at the Macy's right after it opened. I got to the train station and finally was able to put on a clean shirt and shorts. And away I go to San Fransisco.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My 72 Hours in Seattle Part III

So my third day in Seattle is a Friday. It happened to be Friday the 11th of September. I wake up early, didn't sleep well again. I dunno what the problem is, I have a comfortable bed but I'm a bit anxious I guess. Anxious about what, I don't know.

Anyway, I'm flipping the channels of the TeeVee, come across MSNBC and note that they're playing the events of 9-11-2001 as it happened. Now I'm on the west coast so it's just about 6 in the morning and the footage was right before the second plane hit the South tower of the World Trade Center of lower Manhattan.

Back in 2001 I was still snoozing when the events happened. I was listening to Howard Stern (on tape delay) when they first reported the events. I thought I wonder if it's on the news. I turn to the TV and see what looks like Lower Manhattan but from the 50's and 60's because it doesn't look like what I know to be lower Manhattan. It was in smoke but it didn't look right. Buildings were missing. I turned the channel and found out why. It was then when I realized the catastrophe that occurred. The rest is history.

So this was the first time I'm seeing the events in real time, without the maudlin music and the political rhetoric, right and left. I hate to say it, but I was riveted. It brings those emotions back from that day.

I finally dragged myself from my room and tried to set up my day. Now after my free breakfast I was trying to figure out how to spend my day because my feet now had four large blisters, two on each feet. I decided to do touristy things.

I took the bus down to the International District and Uwajimaya. Uwajimaya is this great Japanese market that sells everything from groceries to fresh fish to manga and religious totems. Awesome. I had lunch there, tempura chicken with some sweet sauce that was quite tasty. I was a little disappointed they didn't have the Japanese toy selection they had the last time I was there. Well, the train again I took to the former Bon Marche, now known as Macy's Seattle.

I used to love shopping there when I lived there but the reason I really wanted to shop there was because I only packed four shirts with me. I thought I packed more but...anyway, I didn't find anything good there so on my merry way I went to Pike Place Market. I bought some apples and peaches, wishing I had a kitchen to cook some of the fresh vegetables and even fresher Salmon that was there. Instead, I went to the excellent comic store known as Golden Age comics. Didn't buy anything but shoulda bought the Peter Bagge book they were selling there. Oh well.

I had time to kill before I was to go out that Friday night. I wanted to rest my feet so I took a bus ride up to the Varsity theater to see the movie "The Hurt Locker" The movie was excellent but the popcorn was only good.

I went back to the hotel to rest, drank some more Fat Tire and watched even more 9-11 events before I went back, once again to Ozzie's. This time the crowd was decent but not too crowded for a Friday. I was talking to some people there including a nice looking Seattle woman who I found fascinating. She definitely seemed more worldly than her young age would suggest. We talked for awhile but every once in a while she would take off for a few minutes. After the second time she left I was thinking about heading back to the hotel when I ran into her again on my way out.

I went outside with her while she smoked. We hung out til after closing when Blueberry showed up wanting to do some graffiti in the alley next door. Blueberry again revealed what a character she was. The woman I met was fascinated with Blueberry's antics. Blueberry's lack of inhibitions with her antics and my mild drunkenness took me back to my SVA days in the late 80's. I can't believe I can still experience this after all these years but it had been a long time.

After Blueberry went her merry way, I escorted my new friend back to where she crashed for the night and I went back to my hotel.

I felt so guilty. I didn't say goodbye to Star. That may have explained why once again I didn't get any sleep. Or maybe it was because I was now heading to Portland and I was not going to get to know my new friend any better. My, I love the women in Seattle. I like the accents and the attitude. Also, they tend to be smart, I like that.

And thus my short stay in Seattle ends. Portland, here I come!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My 72 Hours in Seattle Part II

I woke up without getting much sleep. I took in a small walk around South Lake Union. there is a lot of construction going on. There is a new streetcar line that goes there from downtown. Paul Allen insisted that it was needed but I don't know who would use it.

Seattle seems like a work in progress right now. Many construction projects are going on, some of it has halted but not all. South Lake Union looks like it'll be pretty cool when it's finished. Bill Gates is doing his thing at Seattle Center and it looks like the Center itself will be modified to make it more accessible.

I wanted to ride a rented bicycle around Greenlake and the rest of the neighborhoods north of Seattle. But, Gregg's of Greenlake isn't renting bikes anymore so I ended up walking to the "U" district after eating fish and chips at Spuds Greenlake. The "U" District is always ever changing. New stores move in and more move out. A massive building went up near 50th street on the "Ave". I have no idea what building it replaced. All the movie theaters are still intact including the rundown multiplex Metro.

I took the bus over to Ballard where I see many of the institutions of the district. The bowling alley is closed , the cool looking Denny's is gone, leaving only a tiled floor being overshadowed by the many new condominium complexes. The west part of Ballard is like it was when I left. I had a beer at my first hangout in Seattle, The Old Peculiar. It has long stopped being the bar I knew back in91-92. The Lockspot is still there but is now known as the place the fishermen of "World's Deadliest Catch" hang out. I did the Locks as I alwys do when I'm in the area. Looked at the salmon in the Fish Ladder. Mmmmmm. yummy.

Then I took a long walk, a very long walk. First I went down Ballard Avenue and had a beer at the Townhouse. I had an expensive Bavarian brew. I continued on and had a beer at Maritime Pacific's Taproom. I had their Flagship beer. I stopped to look at the ugliest shopping structure I've seen in my memory. Thankfully Mike's Chili is still there and their chili was still good. I'm over doing it with my eating.

I walked the Ballard Bridge across to Upper Queen Anne. I decided not to take a bus and headed up to the top of the very steep Queen Anne Hill. Following the arterial route I climbed to the top, walked along Queen Anne Ave to my former work place the 5-Spot. I worked there when I left Seattle. Many of the people who worked there were leaving at the same time I left. Sooooooo, I wasn't surprised that only one person I knew was there and it was Hank the bartender. Good Ol' Hank, Never the sentimentalist. Still he served me beer and quaffed a few while talking baseball with a Red Sox fan. As a Mets fan it's fun to talk to a Red Sox fan now that I don't have to feel bad about 1986.

Now, when I left I was quite buzzed and my feet had developed blisters. I got in touch with some of my friends to try to get them to show up at Ozzie's. They weren't able to make it. Still I went to Kidd Valley had a burger combo, and rested. I dragged my sorry ass to Ozzie's and sang only a few times. I knew no one else would turn up, so I went back to my hotel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My 72 Hours in Seattle Part I

When I landed in Seattle, it had started raining. Great, That's the question everyone asks when it comes to Seattle. "Does it rain a lot in Seattle?"

The trip into town revealed the new light rail system Seattle set up in the years since I left. It was a decade and more in the making and it looks pretty good. It certainly goes a long way to giving people a direct route to the airport from downtown.

My first stop was to the Caffe Ladro. It was my daily routine to walk down from my apartment and have my daily mocha fix. You see, in Seattle it's not all about Starbucks. As a matter of fact most discriminating Seattlites will never set foot in a Starbucks. There are many alternatives. Unlike with Wal-Mart, When Starbucks opened all over the place it didn't put people out of business, it inspired many mom and pop operations to open up to sell coffee. It usually has better prices than Starbucks and usually tastes better. Caffe Ladro is one of the best if not THE best in Seattle.

The summer seemed cruel to Seattle, the grass and the leaves were brown. Still, Seattle looks great. Not one person in Caffe Ladro was familiar, which is to be expected after 4 years, But many of the people working there when I left were there for more than 4 years.

I wandered around near the Space Needle looking for a hotel for less than a hundred dollars a night. I found one in the Travelodge. It was one of the 4 story hotel types built in the early 60's. I liked it. It had a great bed and was kitschy enough to satisfy me. I bought a six pack of Fat Tire, a favorite of mine I can't get in Jersey.

After sitting around I decided to see a movie before I met up with a friend I met through Facebook. I went to the Egyptian to see "It Might Get Loud". I liked the movie but was in love with the popcorn I had there. It was sooooo good.

I met up with my facebook friend Bill at a Sake Bar called Sake Nome ran by a friend of Bill's. It's located in Pioneer Square and was a very mellow place that had a Wii set up and plenty of Manga to peruse through. One featured Saki Nome prominently in it. I'm not a sake drinker but I was able to sample quite a few kinds. I had two larger glasses and since I'm not a sake drinker I got quite a bit buzzed.

I enjoyed playing Wii tennis and Wii bowling with all those who were there. I was glad Bill suggested this because it was exactly the type of thing I would not think of doing on my own. so, if you like sake and are in Seattle. Stop by at Sake Nome near the Alaskan Viaduct.

But the real reason I came to Seattle was to meet up with my karaoke friends at Ozzie's. When I moved away from Seattle in 2005, many other people had moved away. Most of them are back. Star-Star was one of them. She had moved to Houston and found it not to her liking. Neither did her ex boyfriend Theron who also moved back. It was great to see both of them at Ozzie's. The night was fun but mellow. I had Mac and Jack and Red Hook. It ended with Star giving me a ride and a weird elf like girl who called herself Blueberry.

Now Blueberry is one of those "tragic" girls who shows up at Ozzie's every once in awhile. They tell their life story mixed in with a bit of hyperbole. It's fun wondering what part of it is true. Blueberry was all over the map with her stories and her mood swings. It can be fun for a bit but I'm always leery of getting too much of it. She was dropped off first and I was dropped off second. The funny thing is that I had the best sense of direction where everything was, despite my absence.

That was my first day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Overview of My West Coast Trip

Well, I am back in Jersey after a satisfying trip to the west coast. The trip lasted seven days and involved three cities. I hooked up with some old friends, made some new ones and learned a thing or two on the way.

The trip can be broken down like this:

72 Hours in Seattle: What Has Happened To My Old Town?

24 Hours in Portland: Why Can't I Find That Old Hotel I Stayed in 1991?

48 Hours in San Fransisco: Why Do I Love This City So Much?


I got to Seattle on Wednesday the 9th, It was raining when I got there but that stopped soon after I arrived. The rest of the stay involved exploring my old stomping grounds, Drinking that Seattle coffee, Drinking sake with a new friend, Doing karaoke with old friends, Eating at Seattle fast food joints, Meeting some interesting women, Seeing two movies at some of the great Seattle movie theaters. Oh, and I watched too much TV on September 11th.


I got to Portland on Saturday the 12th after a decent train ride. I wandered aimlessly until I finally found a hotel that fit my budget. Yikes. I wandered downtown again, Shopped at Powell Book Store, Ate at Carl's Jr, Rode the new Green Line light rail train, and Drank about 7 sampler beers at a modest beer bar during a bachelorette party.

San Francisco:

I got to San Fransisco on Monday the 14th after a long train trip that had nice scenery that would have been spectacular if it wasn't dark when we rolled by Mt. Shasta and Crater Lake. I toured the Giants ballpark, Walked the waterfront, Walked up to Coit Tower (whew!), Rented a bicycle, Rode over the Golden Gate Bridge, Hooked up with an old friend, Ate at In-n-Out burger joint, Toured by bike the Presidio, China Beach, the Cliff House, Golden Gate Park, Haight Ashbury and the Castro. I then rode the bike to visit my friend at her coffee shop in the Tenderloin. Ate some burgers with my friend and his wife. It was a blast.

I will go into details about the trip in more blog entries and explore some themes and trends. I think there is enough room on the internet for my ramblings.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

West Coast Objectives.

Well, I ready to go to Seattle, Portland and San Fransisco the next 7-8 days. It's an odd feeling. It was my home for 14 years but I have no family connections and no really close friends connection. It's not a traditional vacation spot and I'm taking an approach to the trip similar to the one I took when I was a young buck nearly twenty years ago. I like adventures, so it's gonna be cheap motels and long train trips. Perhaps I'll ride around in rented Vespa, or a bicycle. That would be fun.

But I'm gonna have to rely on serendipity. I will visit some of my old stomping grounds. A stop at 5-Spot, Karaoke at Ozzie's, and perhaps a movie at some of the excellent movie theaters there. Hopefully I'll be able to meet up with some people who I'm not in contact with. Who knows. Not knowing is part of the adventure. I have grabbed the phone numbers of people I know from Facebook from their home page, so if I don't run into them I'll give them a call.

Basically, I'm gonna take in the aura of the city. I'll see if it is still a city I want to transfer to in the year 2010. Many people had left Seattle at the same time I left and has since moved back. That's a good sign. Several friends from high school have moved there since i left and they love it. Not easy to do with an east coast native.

I'll want to visit Portland on the way to San Francisco. How long is the only question. Do I want to spend less than 2 hours or do I want to stay overnight and take in the town? I know no one who lives there. Still, It's a very beautiful city, a small scale Seattle with awesome fountains.

Then I plan to take the train, maybe a (ugh) bus to San Fransisco and hopefully see an old friend and take in a Giants baseball game in their awesome privately built ballpark. (How about that for the most liberal city in the country?)The main goal there is to buy ice cream in a mini-helmet to add to my collection of them from all the ballparks I've been to. I'm up to six. I need more, more!

Maybe I'll do Karaoke when I'm down there. If the moon will have me.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Vacation! All I Ever Wanted?

I don't do vacations well. Not since I was 18 years old have I had what would be called the quintessential vacation. I have gone on many a trip, weddings and had my share of fun but I wouldn't call what I've experienced in my adulthood a vacation.

During my art school years I felt were the best times of my life. I was in NYC in the late 80's and it was a blast, so I guess that could be called a vacation life. I had some nothing years, making little money for the two years after I graduated SVA. One of my jobs was working as a livery driver part time. I picked up people from the airport and drove them back and forth to their homes and businesses. This made me a little jealous. Not that I couldn't afford it, but that I never can find the right time and NEVER can find someone to go with me. I've talked to my customers and one in particular inspired me to move to Seattle.

I anticipated taking lots of trips on the west coast and Alaska and Hawaii. Soon, after I moved to Seattle, I obtained a passport in the possible pursuit of European travel. Needless to say in my 14 years of living in Seattle I didn't get to use my passport and never visited the 49th or 50th state.

The main reason is that in my pursuit of my trying to get Pipe Dreams syndicated I was never able to obtain a decent paying job. I would get jobs that sustained me but it wouldn't afford me any decent vacation. Besides, I had to make an annual trip to Jersey to visit the folks. But that's not a vacation, that's embracing comfort.

So I had to settle for less than the quintessential American vacation. Now when I was in a 6 year relationship I did some little excursions to Portland and Vancouver. Now, a visit to the Tri-Cities might be interesting if you're a history buff and were curious where "Project Manhattan" originated. Yes, nothing like a former nuclear site for a vacation. We did find time to take a trip down the west coast in 1995. It was fun but hardly what I would call a vacation. I still regret that we didn't stop off in Santa Rosa, the home of Charles Schulz and visit his studio and ice skating rink.

Now, a friend of mine had moved to San Fransisco, which is an easy plane trip from Seattle. I visited him a few times and that was fun but it was only for a few days and I crashed at his place. That doesn't count as a vacation. I would go back to Jersey to visit the folks, go to weddings and see old friends. It's fun, but it's not a vacation.

When I got back to Jersey I took a trip with my girlfriend at the time to Charleston, South Carolina. It was to attend a wedding of someone I barely knew but I had fun. But it was a weekend trip, not a vacation.

During the rest of the relationship, I didn't make enough money and I didn't put enough time at the job to take any vacations. It didn't stop my ex from taking trips to Seattle, Hawaii, and Vegas twice, once without even telling me!!! At that point I had enough money to take a trip and I wanted to with my girlfriend but the relationship was over. She used up all her time and I couldn't trust her anymore. So she left before the lease was up and I burned through all my savings paying her share of it. So, no vacation.

When I finally got a decent paying job in 2007, I made it a point to save for a vacation but between having a car accident and buying a new car along with repairs, I had to wait until this year to take a vacation.

But a problem I have is I have no idea how to do a vacation. I'm not with anyone right now, so I wouldn't have a companion. A friend of mine was talking about doing a trip to the west coast to see an old school mate. I hesitated and said I could do it in September. However in my need to move and the money I expended in the move, I waited to the last minute to set it up so I'm doing it by myself.

I can do trips by myself but I am somewhat limited in ideas on what to do and where to go. So, I will make it a point to see my Seattle friends, go to Portland and make a stop in San Fransisco. But while I'm there....well I guess I'll get to that when I arrive.