Seattle by night
After navigating the first traffic I have run into a long time, I made it to my hostel in Chinatown just minutes after street parking became free. I left my car a half a block away in front of the king street subway station and meandered past signs (in what looked like Chinese but could have been any number of Asian languages) for a bar, grocery store, and bakery all in succession. This hostel is the largest I have been in so far (and the most expensive, ugh), operating out of and like a hotel room. I was given a swipe key, rules on not smoking, the wifi password, and directions to my fourth floor room. Since the hostel was mostly booked, I figured my four-person room would be filled with other travelers willing to go on adventures with me. Instead, I walked into a bare room with a long-haired octogenarian talking to herself and her notebook on the lower bunk. I climbed up onto the top bunk and pulled out my laptop, searching for maps of the city and lists of things to do. The woman below offered me pop (which I declined, courteously), went on a rant about the alphabet never ending and her neighbor dying, and quietly left. I never quite felt asleep, but did essentially take a nap for the next few hours.
I finally regained the sense that I was losing time and found an excellent website highlighting the things one should visit in the city. I marked a few on my map, left a few for the next day, and headed out on my own just at dusk. I walked along the river (sound? Ocean? Thing…) for several blocks and then turned up the hill toward the raved about Pike Place market and THE original Starbucks across the street. Unfortunately it was so late that both were deserted, so I walked on. A few stores looked enticing: one of those underground record-only selling music stores, a restaurant called late night snack, old-school looking department stores, a theater, a salsa dance studio that was still open and vibrant. Several blocks later I reached the site of the 1962 World’s fair and the Space Needle. It was too dark to appreciate the fair grounds, but the Space Needle was open until midnight, so I quickly paid the admissions and ascended 520 ft into the air on a golden-rimmed glass elevator looking out onto the city – much to one elevator-fearing passenger’s chagrin. The view from above was amazing as the lights gleaned from Canada, downtown skyscrapers, and marinas in all directions. I walked around the entirety once and then stopped to read all the display boards. Seattle is very proud that they beat out New York City for this fair and instead of the original theme of “celebration of the west” planners pushed forward a futuristic 21st century scheme. The lead planner knew that they needed some sort of climactic, attention-getting draw and, several months after any sort of building deadline, came up with a spaceship atop a pedestal. Other designs included a more robust frame, a more prominent spaceship, or what looked like a disc with a curling ribbon reaching down to the ground in an almost balloon like style. I also read that there was supposed to be a fine dining restaurant that continuously rotated so that you could catch all of the 360 views. Immediately I thought I felt the ground moving beneath me, and it took several stares at the horizon to tell if indeed this platform was moving or not. I think it was supposed to, but I’m still not wholly convinced – maybe I was on the wrong deck. To also take the restaurant portion of this history, I bought the cheapest thing on the menu (a yogurt) and pretended like I was fine dining and relaxing in the tall chairs and tiny tables – suspiciously keeping my eye on whether or not the scene out the window was changing, but it didn’t. I toured the outer deck, surprised at the relatively warm temperature and people watched Asian tourists and Mariner’s fans fresh from a game. At just before midnight, they were starting to nudge people out, so I returned to the streets and made my way back to the hostel.
I know how to navigate cities. Beyond the abilities to read a map and signs, you have to make sure all of your valuables are close to you, that your bag is carrying something heavy (like the three-inch hardcover I’ve been carting around), and that it is close to your side. Like the hallways of high school, walk with a purpose, aware of your surroundings but staring straight ahead. If someone looks at you, stare them right back in the eye, but don’t be too haughty or auspicious, just be assertive that you’re not scared and you have somewhere to be. I repeated all of this to myself as I walked the several miles back from the Space Needle at midnight. I knew another rule to add on to this was the buddy system, but the hostel was too large and full of non-English speaking people already clicked up that I had just set out on my own. I wasn’t actually that worried as I stayed in the ritzier parts of town and I ran into as many drunk girls (admittedly using the buddy system) as I did asleep homeless people. Apparently though, I looked too serious for one girl, so her and her friend tag-teamed me into twirling one another about the sidewalk for several awkward seconds. Other than that, I made it safely back to the hostel, surfed the internet for a while laughing at several men in front of me having one of those trying to-be-philosophical-and-deep-serious conversations because they’re all way too old to be in a hostel but it’s 1am and they have a beer in their hand. I set 8 alarms on my phone and navigated to bed.